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Air pollution ‘causes 15,000 cases of diabetes each year in the UK’

Pollution is responsible for 14% of all new cases globally

Air pollution is causing nearly 15,000 new cases of type 2 diabetes in the UK every year, a study has claimed.

The US research found the number of people with diabetes rose as air pollution increased, even when particulates were below levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In the UK there were about 14,900 incident cases of diabetes attributable to air pollution and 31,800 healthy life years lost, Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University, said.

For the study, reported in the Telegraph, researchers looked at the health records of 1.7 million US veterans who were followed for an average of 8.5 years.

Using Nasa satellite data and ground station readings to monitor air pollution, they linked the readings to individuals to find the quality of air they had been breathing.

They also cross referenced air pollution in 194 countries with the Global Burden of Disease study to find out whether diabetes cases rose in more polluted areas.

Overall, the researchers estimated that pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016, which represents about 14% of all new cases.

They found that when people were exposed to pollution at a level of between five and 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, about 21% developed diabetes.

When that exposure increases to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms per cubic metre of air, about 24% of the group developed diabetes. In Britain, the average level of air pollution is 12 micrograms per cubic metre of air, but often rises to 50 or 60 in inner cities like London.

The findings are published in The Lancet Planetary Health.