While the association between poor air quality and lung disease is well known, a study led by Tasmanian researcher Fay Johnston has revealed new links with diabetes.
The Australian study looked at the medical reasons behind almost 400,000 ambulance call-outs in Tasmania, NSW and Victoria, and their links to air quality.
It found that increases in air pollution particles less than 2.5 micrometres in size were associated with an increased risk of ambulance call-outs for low blood glucose levels, irregular heartbeats, heart failure, fainting, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and croup.
An associate professor at the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Ms Johnston said a trend in call-outs for low blood glucose in people with diabetes was a consistent finding across all states.
“Air quality is commonly, but erroneously, thought of as a respiratory issue. That is, affecting mainly our airways,” she said.
“But the findings in this study support the strong evidence that worsening air quality can lead to cardiovascular conditions, and the emerging evidence of its links with diabetes.
“Air pollution is known to promote inflammation and be linked with higher blood glucose, but this is the first report of a possible association with low blood glucose.”
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Ms Johnston said more clinical research was needed to further determine the way air pollution and diabetes were directly linked.
“We are really confident with this data and it really has opened up a whole new world for future clinical research,” she said.
“Using ambulance data instead of hospital data also proved very insightful.
“In Tasmania we know our population is at a higher risk, because we have a higher risk of most chronic diseases and an older generation.
“In summer we have some of the best air on the planet, but come winter we have some of the worst – largely due to wood fires.
“There is a lot more we could and should be doing to reduce these risk factors.”
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