Long-term air pollution exposure and diabetes in a population-based Swiss cohort

Environ Int. 2014 Sep;70:95-105. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.05.014. Epub 2014 Jun 7.


Air pollution is an important risk factor for global burden of disease. There has been recent interest in its possible role in the etiology of diabetes mellitus. Experimental evidence is suggestive, but epidemiological evidence is limited and mixed. We therefore explored the association between air pollution and prevalent diabetes, in a population-based Swiss cohort. We did cross-sectional analyses of 6392 participants of the Swiss Cohort Study on Air Pollution and Lung and Heart Diseases in Adults [SAPALDIA], aged between 29 and 73 years. We used estimates of average individual home outdoor PM10 [particulate matter <10μm in diameter] and NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] exposure over the 10 years preceding the survey. Their association with diabetes was modeled using mixed logistic regression models, including participants' study area as random effect, with incremental adjustment for confounders. There were 315 cases of diabetes (prevalence: 5.5% [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.8, 7.2%]). Both PM10 and NO2 were associated with prevalent diabetes with respective odds ratios of 1.40 [95% CI: 1.17, 1.67] and 1.19 [95% CI: 1.03, 1.38] per 10μg/m(3) increase in the average home outdoor level. Associations with PM10 were generally stronger than with NO2, even in the two-pollutant model. There was some indication that beta blockers mitigated the effect of PM10. The associations remained stable across different sensitivity analyses. Our study adds to the evidence that long term air pollution exposure is associated with diabetes mellitus. PM10 appears to be a useful marker of aspects of air pollution relevant for diabetes. This association can be observed at concentrations below air quality guidelines.

Keywords: Air pollution; Association analysis; Epidemiology; NO(2); PM(10); Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide