Exposure to pollution is not a significant factor in the development of type 1 diabetes, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Helsinki concluded that the condition was not linked to a list of 27 common pollutants and chemicals after analysing hundreds of blood samples from children from Finnish and Estonian populations.
Previous studies have revealed that a number of chemicals, including those found in pesticides and some of which are now forbidde, may have an impact on the immune system. The use of certain chemicals has grown significantly in developed countries in recent years as has the incidence of type 1 diabetes.
The research team examined blood samples taken from two other studies. They were from youngsters deemed to be at genetic risk of type 1 diabetes, and taken 12 months after birth and when the children turned four. Samples of blood from their mothers at the time of birth were also analysed.
Comparing all of the sets of blood samples enabled the researchers to assess if exposure to pollution both in the womb and when the children were young could be associated with the condition.
The results showed no link between the 27 pollutants and chemicals, but they did reveal that children from Helsinki had more chemicals in their bloodstream compared to youngsters living in less built-up areas.
The researchers concluded: “No association was found between the plasma chemical levels and the development of clinical type 1 diabetes. Our results do not support the view that exposure to the studied environmental chemicals during foetal life or early childhood is a significant risk factor for later development of beta cell autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes.”
Commenting on the research, type 1 diabetes charity JDRF said: “This is reassuring news for people living with type 1 diabetes and their families. The hunt for environmental factors linked with type 1 diabetes however continues.”
The study was published by the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

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