Current Diabetes Reports

, 19:58 | Cite as

Air Pollution, Oxidative Stress, and Diabetes: a Life Course Epidemiologic Perspective

  • Chris C. Lim
  • George D. ThurstonEmail author
Diabetes Epidemiology (E Selvin and K Foti, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Diabetes Epidemiology


Purpose of Review

Ambient air pollution is strongly linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. We summarize available published evidence regarding similar associations with diabetes across the life course.

Recent Findings

We performed a life-course survey of the recent literature, including prenatal, gestational, childhood/adolescence, and adult exposures to air pollution. Oxidative stress is identified as a key factor in both metabolic dysfunction and the effects of air pollution exposure, especially from fossil fuel combustion products, providing a plausible mechanism for air pollution-diabetes associations. The global burden of diabetes attributed to air pollution exposure is substantial, with a recent estimate that ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure contributes to more than 200,000 deaths from diabetes annually.


There is a growing body of literature linking air pollution exposure during childhood and adulthood with diabetes etiology and related cardiometabolic biomarkers. A small number of studies found that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is associated with elevated gestational diabetes risk among mothers. Studies examining prenatal air pollution exposure and diabetes risk among the offspring, as well as potential transgenerational effects of air pollution exposure, are very limited thus far. This review provides insight into how air pollutants affect diabetes and other metabolic dysfunction-related diseases across the different life stages.


Air pollution Diabetes Particulate matter Oxidative stress 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Sources of Funding

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health through a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center of Excellence (ES00260).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Forestry and Environmental SciencesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental MedicineNYU School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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