Exposure to Environmental and Occupational Particulate Air Pollution as a Potential Contributor to Neurodegeneration and Diabetes: A Systematic Review of Epidemiological Research

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Aug 9;15(8):1704. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15081704.


It has been hypothesised that environmental air pollution, especially airborne particles, is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and neurodegenerative conditions. However, epidemiological evidence is inconsistent and has not been previously evaluated as part of a systematic review. Our objectives were to carry out a systematic review of the epidemiological evidence on the association between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and T2DM and neurodegenerative diseases in adults and to identify if workplace exposures to particles are associated with an increased risk of T2DM and neurodegenerative diseases. Assessment of the quality of the evidence was carried out using the GRADE system, which considers the quality of the studies, consistency, directness, effect size, and publication bias. Available evidence indicates a consistent positive association between ambient air pollution and both T2DM and neurodegeneration risk, such as dementia and a general decline in cognition. However, corresponding evidence for workplace exposures are lacking. Further research is required to identify the link and mechanisms associated with particulate exposure and disease pathogenesis and to investigate the risks in occupational populations. Additional steps are needed to reduce air pollution levels and possibly also in the workplace environment to decrease the incidence of T2DM and cognitive decline.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; air pollution; cognitive function; dementia; epidemiology; neurodegeneration; occupational; particulate matter; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Cognition
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Dust
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Dust
  • Particulate Matter