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Pollutants linked to diabetes

At Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations in Ontario, Canada, many people have been diagnosed with Minamata disease (mercury poisoning). Many people in these two communities also have Type 2 diabetes.

Both communities were exposed simultaneously to mercury, dioxins and furans from their fish and wild meat. Industrial pollution was the source of the contamination. Although they were tested for mercury, the people were never tested for dioxin or other toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and hexachlorobenzene which have recently been linked to diabetes in a variety of studies. Some of these toxins are still being released by the pulp mill at Dryden, Ontario.

Few studies in the world seem to look at the effects of simultaneous exposures to pollutants. A very recent study did just that and discovered that simultaneous exposure to mercury, dioxins and furans resulted in increased insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for diabetes.

When looking at connections between pollutants and diabetes, scientists should investigate multiple exposures and the synergistic effect they may have in relation to the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

-John H.W. Hummel

Pollution/Health Researcher

Nelson, British Columbia

Canada