Air pollution and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2014 Nov;106(2):161-72. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2014.08.010. Epub 2014 Sep 10.


Aim: Whether exposure to relatively high levels of air pollution is associated with diabetes occurrence remains unclear. We sought to assess and quantify the association between exposure to major air pollutants and risk of type 2 diabetes.

Methods: PubMed and EMBASE databases (through September 2013) were searched using a combination of terms related to exposure to gaseous (NO2 and NOx) or particulate matter pollutants (PM2.5, PM10 and PM10-2.5) and type 2 diabetes. Descriptive and quantitative information were extracted from selected studies. We used random-effects models meta-analysis to derive overall risk estimates per type of pollutant.

Results: We included ten studies (five cross-sectional and five prospective), assessing the effects of air pollutants on the occurrence of diabetes. In prospective investigations, the overall effect on diabetes occurrence was significant for both NO2 (adjusted hazard ratio [HR], 1.13; 95% confidence interval [95%CI], 1.01-1.22; p < 0.001; I(2) = 36.4%, pheterogeneity = 0.208) and PM2.5 (HR, 1.11; 95%CI, 1.03-1.20; p < 0.001; I(2) = 0.0%, pheterogeneity = 0.827). Odds ratios were reported by two cross-sectional studies which revealed similar associations between both NO2 and PM2.5 with type 2 diabetes. Across studies, risk estimates were generally adjusted for age, gender, body mass index and cigarette smoking.

Conclusions: Available evidence supports a prospective association of main air pollutants with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. This finding may have implications for population-based strategies to reduce diabetes risk.

Keywords: Air pollution; Gaseous pollutants; Inflammation; Insulin resistance; Particulate matters pollutants; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Particulate Matter
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter