Previous studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of a number of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. Particulate matter (PM), also called particle pollution, is extremely small particles and liquid in the atmosphere.

PM2.5 measures fine particles that are 2.5 microns in diameter; particles of this size have been well documented in air pollution and health risk research. PM is capable of entering the lung passageways and the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory impacts.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the primary sources of PM are from incomplete combustion, automobile emissions, cooking, and dust. A recently published study in the journal Lancet Planetary Health has added supporting evidence for this claim, showing that there is an association between air pollution, specifically PM2.5, and the risk of diabetes.

The study suggests that approximately 8.2 million healthy life years that were lost due to diabetes are attributable to air pollution. The study also reported that the burden attributable to PM2.5 had substantial geographical variability, and was more skewed towards regions that were less prepared to deal with the consequences of the excess burden.

A global health issue

GlobalData epidemiologists estimate that the total prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is expected to steadily increase through 2026. Based on an analysis of 16 major markets (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, the UK, and the US), epidemiologists estimated the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes to be 5.82% in 2016 and to increase to 7.96% by 2026 (Figure 1).

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that outdoor air pollution is an important global health issue and a major cause of death and diseases. The WHO estimates that 4.2 million premature deaths every year are linked to ambient air pollution. Other health effects include increased hospital admissions, increased prescription medication, absence from work and school, and emergency room visits.

With the growing evidence of research to show that there is an association between air pollution and the risk of diabetes, there will need to be an increased effort in health promotion and policy changes. GlobalData expects to see low-resource countries with few air pollution policies facing a higher risk of diabetes, compared to high-resource countries with stricter clean-air policies having a lower risk of diabetes.