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What is the role of human contamination by environmental chemicals in the development of type 1 diabetes?
  1. Sarah G Howard1,
  2. Duk-Hee Lee2
  1. 1Collaborative on Health and the Environment, USA
  2. 2Department of Preventative Medicine, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea
  1. Correspondence to Sarah G Howard, Collaborative on Health and the Environment, USA; sarhow{at}


The increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in children around the world is unexplained. Even though various environmental chemicals have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes as well as other autoimmune diseases, the possibility that environmental chemicals may contribute to the development of T1D has not been adequately evaluated. There is preliminary epidemiological evidence that exposure to certain chemicals, such as N-nitroso compounds, air pollutants and persistent organic pollutants is associated with T1D. Environmental chemicals that can act as endocrine disruptors may affect the development and function of the immune system in ways that could promote autoimmunity, and thereby contribute to the development of T1D. As such, the potential low-dose effects of chemicals should be considered in both epidemiological and experimental study designs of T1D. If chemicals indeed contribute to the development of T1D, then this disease may be partly preventable.

  • Autoimmune disease
  • diabetes DI
  • endocrine disruptors
  • environmental chemicals
  • environmental epidemiology
  • environmental health
  • persistent organic pollutants
  • pollution
  • type 1 diabetes

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.