Can exposure to environmental chemicals increase the risk of diabetes type 1 development?

Biomed Res Int. 2015:2015:208947. doi: 10.1155/2015/208947. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is an autoimmune disease, where destruction of beta-cells causes insulin deficiency. The incidence of T1DM has increased in the last decades and cannot entirely be explained by genetic predisposition. Several environmental factors are suggested to promote T1DM, like early childhood enteroviral infections and nutritional factors, but the evidence is inconclusive. Prenatal and early life exposure to environmental pollutants like phthalates, bisphenol A, perfluorinated compounds, PCBs, dioxins, toxicants, and air pollutants can have negative effects on the developing immune system, resulting in asthma-like symptoms and increased susceptibility to childhood infections. In this review the associations between environmental chemical exposure and T1DM development is summarized. Although information on environmental chemicals as possible triggers for T1DM is sparse, we conclude that it is plausible that environmental chemicals can contribute to T1DM development via impaired pancreatic beta-cell and immune-cell functions and immunomodulation. Several environmental factors and chemicals could act together to trigger T1DM development in genetically susceptible individuals, possibly via hormonal or epigenetic alterations. Further observational T1DM cohort studies and animal exposure experiments are encouraged.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment


  • Environmental Pollutants