Air pollution might raise a kid's risk of diabetes, new research shows.
Pollution has long been known to cause or worsen lung cancer, asthma and cardiovascular damage.
The study from a team at the University of Southern California found that Latino children living in areas with higher levels of air pollution may also suffer damage to the pancreas — the organ that produces insulin. That, in turn, could raise their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
"Exposure to heightened air pollution during childhood increases the risk for Hispanic children to become obese and, independent of that, to also develop Type 2 diabetes," said Michael Goran, who worked on the study.
The children who participated in the study lived in areas that, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, had excess nitrogen dioxide and tiny air pollution particles that are generated by vehicles and power plants.
By the time the children turned 18, their insulin-creating pancreatic cells were 13 percent less efficient than normal, making them more vulnerable to developing Type 2 diabetes, Goran's team found.
They also had nearly 27 percent higher blood insulin after having fasted for 12 hours. During their two-hour glucose test, had about 26 percent more insulin than normal, showing the body was using insulin less efficiently.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Diabetes, is the first to connect air pollution and diabetes risk in children. The findings, however, may be generalized only to overweight and obese Latino children, mostly of a lower socioeconomic status.