Simultaneous exposure of non-diabetics to high levels of dioxins and mercury increases their risk of insulin resistance

J Hazard Mater. 2011 Jan 30;185(2-3):749-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2010.09.084. Epub 2010 Oct 14.


Insulin resistance and the defective function of pancreatic β-cells can occur several years before the development of type 2 diabetes. It is necessary to investigate and clarify the integrated effects of moderate-to-high exposure to dioxins and mercury on the pancreatic endocrine function. This cross-sectional study investigated 1449 non-diabetic residents near a deserted pentachlorophenol and chloralkali factory. Metabolic syndrome related factors were measured to examine associations with serum dioxin and blood mercury. We also investigated associations between insulin resistance (HOMA-IR > 75th percentile), defective pancreatic β-cells function (HOMA β-cell > 75th percentile), serum dioxins and blood mercury. After adjusting for confounding factors, we found that insulin resistance increased with serum dioxins (b = 0.13, P < 0.001) and blood mercury (b = 0.01, P < 0.001). Moreover, participants with higher serum dioxins or blood mercury were at a significantly increasing risk for insulin resistance (P(trend) < 0.001). The joint highest tertile of serum dioxins and blood mercury was associated with elevated HOMA-IR at 11 times the odds of the joint lowest tertile (AOR 11.00, 95% CI: 4.87, 26.63). We hypothesize that simultaneous exposure to dioxins and mercury heightens the risk of insulin resistance more than does individual exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dioxins / blood
  • Dioxins / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects*
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Middle Aged


  • Dioxins
  • Mercury