Exploring the Association Between Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Diabetes Among Adults in the United States

Environ Res. 2018 Oct;166:588-594. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.041. Epub 2018 Jun 30.


Objective: To explore the association between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and diabetes and to determine whether effects are heterogeneous when examined by body mass index (BMI).

Methods: Cross-sectional data from 8664 participants were analyzed from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for years 2005-2014. Multivariable logistic regression was used to explore the association between urinary biomarkers of PAHs and diabetes. All models were adjusted for age, sex, race, poverty-income ratio, and serum cotinine.

Results: When compared with the lowest quintiles of exposure, the highest quintiles of exposure to 2-hydroxynaphthalene, 2-hydroxyfluorene, 9-hydroxyfluorene, 2-hydroxyphenanthrene, and a summed variable of all low molecular weight PAHs (aOR = 1.73; 95% CI: 1.17-2.55) showed a positive association with diabetes. Stratified analyses by BMI indicated that the positive association between PAHs and diabetes was found among both normal weight and obese participants.

Conclusions: High levels of exposure to PAHs are positively associated with diabetes in the U.S. general population and these effects are modified by BMI. These findings suggest the importance of strong environmental regulation of PAHs to protect population health.

Keywords: Diabetes; Environmental pollutants; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / urine
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / urine*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons