Lung Disease from Air Pollution Chemicals: Increased Risk for Diabetics

The results of new research indicate that people with prediabetes or diabetes who live in ozone-polluted areas may have an increased risk for irreversible interstitial lung disease with a high mortality rate. 

Study overview

Researchers studied healthy mice, mice with mild insulin resistance, and mice with marked insulin resistance. The study found a direct relationship between insulin resistance levels and the severity of lung inflammation and scarring, or fibrosis. Diabetes-prone mice were particularly susceptible to inflammation and tissue remodeling caused by repeated ozone exposure.

“Evidence suggests that ozone exposure could exacerbate pulmonary fibrosis, particularly in individuals that are diabetic. Poorly controlled diabetes, in particular, may be an important co-morbidity for worsened lung damage.”   

   -Dr. Robert Tighe, researcher and pulmonologist specializing in interstitial disease, Duke University

Why this link is important for public health

personal and household products cause air pollution as bad as cars

“Our results propose a causal link for ozone exposure to preferentially promote early pulmonary fibrosis and lung disease in prediabetic mice. We only exposed these mice for three weeks, but there are millions of people living in cities like Los Angeles and New York who are exposed to high levels of ozone day after day. Then, you must consider the prevalence of prediabetes people — approximately 33% in this country. Our study results suggest that people who are borderline insulin resistant — or diabetic — and living in areas with high levels of ozone pollution might be at an increased risk for developing lung disease.”

-Dr. James Wagner, lead author and associate professor, Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation


Journal Reference:  Wagner, James. G., et al.  Repetitive Ozone Exposures and Evaluation of Pulmonary Inflammation and Remodeling in Diabetic Mouse Strains, Environmental Health Perspectives,CID: 117009. Study / Synoposis   https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP7255