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Sunday Article 12: We are Inhaling Diabetes Causative Agents Everyday?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is usually the result of insufficient production of insulin (i.e., the hormone that regulates blood glucose level) by the pancreas, type 1 diabetes; or when the insulin produced cannot be effectively used by the body, type 2 diabetes. Additionally, gestational diabetes is a condition where blood glucose level is above normal but below those mentioned diagnostic of diabetes. Typically, gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy (Diabetes, 2020).

In 2016, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.6 million deaths (Diabetes, 2020). Globally, it is estimated that 415 million people are living with diabetes, which is approximately 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population. Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common world’s long-term health condition and it is largely known as the consequence of physical inactivity and excess body weight (Diabetes Prevalence, 2019).

However, a widely used chemical in consumer products (e.g., carpets, clothing, electronics, etc.) is also found to be associated with diabetes (University of California-Riverside, 2020).

Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

PBDEs are used for the purpose of fire prevention by adding them to certain manufactured products. They are highly resistant to breakdown and lipophilic. However, these properties are not typically in our favour as they are also easily released into the air, water and soil and consequently leads to bioaccumulation. Not only that, these chemicals have detrimental endocrine-disrupting properties that are closely associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome in humans (Kozlova, et al., 2020) Over a 3-decade period, PBDE levels have increased exponentially in human tissues: blood, adipose, breast milk, etc. Proportionately, type 2 diabetes has also shown a dramatic increase in incidence in recent years. Escalation of PBDE production and in environment presence over the past four decades is suggested to be the potential contribution to metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes. Specifically, diabetes is positively associated with the high body burdens of individual PBDE congeners: BDE-28, -153 and -47, one of the most abundant PBDE congeners detected in the human tissues and environment. Not to mention, exposure to BDE-28, -47, -99, -153, -154, and -183 expands the risk of healthy women developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) which may subsequently increase the risk of metabolic syndrome in adult offspring. Overall, all the PBDE congeners that have been associated with type 2 diabetes are substantially found in DE-71, a commercial mixture of PBDEs with high environmental and human relevance. Studies have shown that DE-71 tends to accumulate in the liver and adipose tissue which are fundamental in glucose homeostasis (Kozlova, et al., 2020). However, the diabetogenic actions of these PBDEs are yet to be completely understood or characterized. How to limit PBDE exposure? Although most harmful PBDEs have been banned or phased out, they are still persistent in the environment since products containing PBDEs are still in circulation (Kozlova, et al., 2020). It is impossible to completely avoid it. As shown in previous studies, ingestion of food (especially high-fat content), as well as oral and dermal uptake of dust and soil, are the primary means that contribute to total human exposure to PBDEs (Trudel, Tlustos, Von Goetz, Scheringer, & Hungerbuhler, 2010). Therefore, in order to limit PBDE exposure, everyone is highly advised to wash hands before eating, vacuum frequently, buying PBDE-free products and responsibly recycle products that contain them (University of California-Riverside, 2020). In addition, it is wise to buy products made from natural fibres (e.g., silk and wool) that are naturally fire-resistant and often extinguish ignited fibres (Fire Retardant Fabrics, 2017). Most importantly, these steps should be practised collectively in order to reduce human exposure to PBDE as much as possible. Together, changes can be made.




All you need to know about fire retardant fabrics. (2017, May 19). Retrieved March 10, 2021, from Whaleyd Bradford Ltd: re%20indefinitely%20fire,more%20flame%20retardant%20than%20others.&text=The%20untrea ted%20natural%20fibres%20in,spread%20quicker%20than%20other%20fabrics.

Diabetes. (2020, June 8). Retrieved March 8, 2021, from World Health Organization:

Diabetes Prevalence. (2019, January 15). Retrieved March 8, 2021, from e,with%20diabetes%20worldwide%20by%202040.

Kozlova, E., Chinthirla, B., Pérez, P., DiPatrizio, N., Argueta, D., Philips, A., . . . Curras-Collazo, M. (2020, October 22). Maternal transfer of environmentally relevant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) produces a diabetic phenotype and disrupts glucoregulatory hormones and hepatic endocannabinoids in adult mouse female offspring. Scientific Reports, 10(2020), 18102. doi:

Trudel, D., Tlustos, C., Von Goetz, N., Scheringer, M., & Hungerbuhler, K. (2010, July 28). PBDE exposure from food in Ireland: optimising data exploitation in probabilistic exposure modelling. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology volume, 21(2011), 565-575. doi:

University of California-Riverside. (2020, November 12). Scientists Warn: Chemicals in Your Living Room Cause Diabetes. Retrieved March 9, 2021, from SciTechDaily: urce=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=SciTechDaily_TrendMD_0


This article is prepared by Syamim Annisa Norzihan.


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