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Updated on January 9, 2007

Persistent Pesticides Linked to Diabetes
(Beyond Pesticides, January 9, 2007)
Adding to a growing body of literature linking persistent pesticides to diabetes, a new study in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives has found an increased rate of hospitalization for diabetes in those who live close to hazardous waste sites containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

While established risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity, genetics and a sedentary lifestyle, have been emphasized in prevention efforts, increasing evidence is showing exposure to environmental contaminants is also an import risk factor that needs to be taken into account. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the annual direct and indirect costs of diabetes are estimated at $132 billion. Deaths resulting from diabetes are likely to be underreported.

The study, Increased Rate of Hospitalization for Diabetes and Residential Proximity of Hazardous Waste Sites, analyzes hospitalization rates by zip code throughout the state of New York, excluding New York City. Zip codes were categorized as clean, containing a hazardous waste site(s) without POPs, and containing a hazardous waste site(s) with POPs. The results show an increase of hospitalization for diabetes in areas with hazardous waste sites - the highest rates occurring in areas containing POPs.

POPs are synthetic, toxic chemicals that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in food chains and are common contaminants in fish, dairy products and other foods. POPs include dioxins, furans, PCBs and chlorinated pesticides. The link between dioxin exposure and diabetes has been found in multiple studies, including the analysis of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. While not as well established, the link between chlorinated pesticides and diabetes has also been observed.

Additionally, earlier studies have reported increased incidence of other diseases in individuals living near hazardous waste sites, such as congenital anomalies, low birth weight, end-stage renal disease, and respiratory ailments.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

TAKE ACTION: In response to the health risks observed in relation to POPs, the Stockholm Convention convened to create a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). However, while the U.S. has signed the treaty, it is not yet been ratified. Beyond Pesticides has been successful at stopping bad legislation that would have weakened the treaty and new legislation is currently being developed. Let your congressmen know you want the POPs treaty ratified with strong legislation that requires the U.S. to bring itself in line with, instead of weaken, international standards.