Association Between Type 2 Diabetes and Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants

  1. Hannu Kiviranta, PHD1
  1. 1Department of Environmental Health, Chemical Exposure Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Kuopio, Finland
  2. 2Department of Chronic Disease Prevention, Diabetes Prevention Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland
  4. 4Unit of General Practice, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
  5. 5Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  6. 6Vasa Central Hospital, Vasa, Finland
  7. 7Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Corresponding author: Riikka Airaksinen, riikka.airaksinen{at}


OBJECTIVE The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing alarmingly in both developed and developing countries. Recently, exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) has been associated with the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. The purpose of this cross-sectional study is to examine the association between type 2 diabetes and POP exposure in the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS The cohort consists of 8,760 people born in Helsinki during 1934–1944, before the global POP emission peak. In 2003, a clinical examination was performed, including blood sampling for laboratory analyses of serum lipids and POPs. Complete data from the examination were available for 1,988 participants. The concentrations of each POP were categorized into four groups on the basis of percentile intervals, and logistic regression was performed to examine diabetes prevalence across the POP categories, adjusting for sex, age, waist circumference, and mean arterial pressure and using the lowest category as the reference group.

RESULTS Among the participants with the highest exposure to oxychlordane, trans-nonachlor, 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis-(p-chlorophenyl)-ethylene (p,p’-DDE, and polychlorinated biphenyl 153, the risk of type 2 diabetes was 1.64–2.24 times higher than that among individuals with the lowest exposure (Plin = 0.003–0.050). In the stratified analysis, the associations between type 2 diabetes and oxychlordane and trans-nonachlor remained significant and were strongest among the overweight participants. Exposure to BDE 47 and BDE 153 was not associated with type 2 diabetes.

CONCLUSIONS This study confirms the association between type 2 diabetes and adult-only exposure to organochlorine pesticides in a general urban population.

  • Received December 8, 2010.
  • Accepted June 13, 2011.

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