Associations between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Environ Pollut. 2019 Sep;252(Pt B):1235-1245. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.06.033. Epub 2019 Jun 13.


Previous meta-analyses on associations between air pollution (AP) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) were mainly focused on studies conducted in high-income countries. Evidence should be updated by including more recent studies, especially those conducted in low- and middle-income countries. We therefore conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies to conclude an updated pooled effect estimates between long-term AP exposure and the prevalence and incidence of T2DM. We searched PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science to identify studies regarding associations of AP with T2DM prevalence and incidence prior to January 2019. A random-effects model was employed to analyze the overall effects. A total of 30 articles were finally included in this meta-analysis. The pooled results showed that higher levels of AP exposure were significantly associated with higher prevalence of T2DM (per 10 μg/m3 increase in concentrations of particles with aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 μm (PM2.5): odds ratio (OR) = 1.09, 95% confidence interval (95%CI): 1.05, 1.13; particles with aerodynamic diameter < 10 μm (PM10): OR = 1.12, 95%CI: 1.06, 1.19; nitrogen dioxide (NO2): OR = 1.05, 95%CI:1.03, 1.08). Besides, higher level of PM2.5 exposure was associated with higher T2DM incidence (per 10 μg/m3 increase in concentration of PM2.5: hazard ratio (HR) = 1.10, 95%CI:1.04, 1.16), while the associations between PM10, NO2 and T2DM incidence were not statistically significant. The associations between AP exposure and T2DM prevalence showed no significant difference between high-income countries and low- and middle-incomes countries. However, different associations were identified between PM2.5 exposure and T2DM prevalence in different geographic areas. No significant differences were found in associations of AP and T2DM prevalence/incidence between females and males, except for the effect of NO2 on T2DM incidence. Overall, AP exposure was positively associated with T2DM. There still remains a need for evidence from low- and middle-income countries on the relationships between AP and T2DM.

Keywords: Air pollution; Incidence; Prevalence; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity
  • Prevalence


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide