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expert reaction to unpublished work on pesticides and diabetes

In a systematic review papers concerning the effect of environmental pollutants on levels of diabetes, a research group presenting their work at European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual meeting report that exposure to certain types of pesticides increases the risk of diabetes.


Jim Orson, Agronomist at The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), said:

“None of the pesticides mentioned has been approved (i.e. registered) in the UK for at least 25 years. In addition, none is approved for use in the EU.”


Dr Iain Lang, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Exeter, said:

“This is a high quality and well conducted study that suggests that people who are more exposed to pesticides are also more likely to have diabetes. In thinking about what this study means I’d draw attention to two things:

“We should consider whether there is anything that people who have diabetes and people who are exposed to pesticides have in common. And there is: being less well-off. People who are less well-off are more likely to become diabetic and are also more likely to be exposed to pesticides. This means we can’t rule out the possibility that both the diabetes and the pesticide exposure are linked to being less well-off, and we certainly can’t deduce that being exposed to pesticides causes diabetes.

“We already have a pretty good idea what causes diabetes: genetics, age, ethnicity, and obesity. Being exposed to pesticides may play a minor role but it’s not the real villain of this story. The fact that we’re seeing a so-called epidemic of diabetes is, I’m fairly certain, little to do with pesticides and a lot to do with obesity. A link between pesticides and diabetes is scientifically interesting but in practical terms it’s not really up there.

“If I was worried about getting diabetes and saw these findings I wouldn’t be concerned about pesticides: I’d be concerned about my weight.”


*as presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm


Declared interests

None declared

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