In 2008 almost a quarter of UK adults and 16 per cent of children aged 2-15 were classified as obese
- Brexit could lead to a bonfire of fracking regulations
- Cornish community carries on fighting a 'Super Quarry' development in Marine Conservation Zone
- TISA 'free trade' deal to force draconian social, environmental, financial deregulation
- Leaked official report: EU Nature Directives are 'fit for purpose'
Medical profession 'oblivious' to role of chemicals in diabetes and obesity
US officials are beginning to take a greater interest in the reported links between the exposure to environmental chemicals, like Bisphenol A, with the development of diabetes and obesity
The medical profession remains largely 'oblivious' to the reported links between exposure to chemicals in our daily lives and the development of diabetes and obesity, leading health specialists have told the Ecologist.
Obesity and diabetes rates in children and adults are increasing in many countries across the world. In 2008 almost a quarter of UK adults and 16 per cent of children aged 2-15 were classified as obese, while 2.8 million people are being treated for diabetes. Medical costs associated with these conditions are also rising, with the NHS estimated to be spending £9 billion per year treating diabetes and a further £4.1 billion treating obesity.
The increase in these medical conditions over the last decade has led many researchers to look for a connection with various external factors. Although changes in diet and physical activity are predominantly blamed for these increases, recent research has been exploring the possibility that environmental pollution could cause both diabetes and obesity.
The main suspects highlighted by researchers include persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as chlorinated pesticides, many of which are now banned but continue to be widely detected in the US population. Studies have also found evidence that other chemicals, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), associated with both diabetes and obesity are still widely produced and found at detectable levels in the environment. BPA in particular has been the focus of campaigns calling for it to be banned, although it continues to be used to line plastic bottles and food containers.
Health specialists are adamant there is a connection and say further research is required to explore the complicated relationship.
‘There is no question in my mind that exposure to environmental chemicals is contributing to the increasing rates of diabetes and obesity, but understanding this relationship is absolutely critical’ Dr David Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany told the Ecologist. ‘This is especially true for the medical profession, and it is sad that at present the medical profession seems to be oblivious to the role of chemical contamination as risk factors for all of the diseases of older age, from cancer to obesity and diabetes to cardiovascular disease,’ says Dr Carpenter.
The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) is yet to conduct any research and is taking a more neutral stance.
‘The HPA is not undertaking specific work in this area. However it is an interesting, emerging area of research. As such the HPA looks forward to the publication of future literature and will continue to monitor developments closely,’ says Ovnair Sepai, head of general toxicology at the HPA's Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards.
US government concern
However, government health officials in the US have taken a closer interest in the issue. In January 2011 the US Department of Health held a workshop to evaluate research linking exposure to environmental chemicals with the development of diabetes and obesity.
Only last year, the National Cancer Institute, which advises the US President, said the link between exposure to everyday chemicals and cancer risk had been 'grossly underestimated'.
Campaigners in the US now want tougher regulation to stop the use of the chemicals. 'There is growing evidence to support the possibility that lower levels of exposure to environmental chemicals can contribute to the development of diabetes,' says Sarah Howard from the US pressure group Collaborative on Health and the Environment. ‘Some of these chemicals are still in use and we should regulate those chemicals. Regulations could also help identify potentially problematic chemicals before they are introduced into the marketplace, and into our bodies.’
Health groups in the UK remain undecided: 'The link between pollution and diabetes needs to be explored further with more solid research before any accurate conclusions can be made,' says Dr Victoria King, Head of Research at Diabetes UK.
Tesco caught breaching EU rules on harmful chemicals
Tesco and Carrefour among those retailers and brands failing to meet their legal responsibilities to provide consumers with information on toxic or carcinogenic substances used in products they sell
Radiation: are we putting our health at risk with increased CT scans?
Tesco provoked an outcry by offering Clubcard members the opportunity to redeem points for a CT scan. Now, increasing numbers of scans in NHS and private hospitals are causing concerns that we are over-exposing ourselves to radiation
UK says it will ignore medical advice on pesticide-spraying
Public will not have to be notified when crops, fields or parks are being sprayed with pesticides potentially harmful to their health, despite warnings from the British Medical Association
The Ecologist January 1971: PCBs
Forty years ago this month – John Noble and Harry Rothman wrote in the Ecologist about the mystery of 8,000 bird deaths and the toxic effects of PCBs found in the environment
Sandra Steingraber: There's a taboo about telling industry and agriculture that practices must change to prevent cancer
Having survived cancer, biologist Sandra Steingraber wrote a book to expose its link to the environment. As the film version premieres in Europe, she tells the Ecologist why we must all take a stand on air, food and water pollution
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.