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19/03/2009

Environmental toxics affecting health

(NaturalNews) High levels of exposure to the chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to a pair of recent studies.

PCBs are toxic, long-lived, bioaccumulative chemicals that were widely used in a variety of consumer and industrial products until they were banned in the 1970s.

In the first study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers from National Taiwan University compared the occurrence of Type 2 diabetes among 378 Taiwanese women who had been exposed to PCB-contaminated cooking oil in the 1970s with its occurrence among 370 non-exposed neighbors. They found that after 24 years, women who had been exposed to the contaminated oil had twice the risk of diabetes as non-exposed women. The women who had been exposed to the highest PCB levels had five times the diabetes risk.

The researchers found no connection between PCB exposure and diabetes risk in men.

In the second study, researchers from SUNY Upstate Medical University tested the PCB blood levels of residents of Anniston, Ala. who lived near a Monsanto factory that had illegally dumped PCBs into open pit landfills through the 1970s.

"It was just dumped into the ground, so every time there is a flood, the stuff is spread throughout the community and then the pigs and cows, vegetables, everything becomes a source," researcher Allen Silverstone said. "Diabetes is one thing that can happen and that probably happens because these chemicals can affect glucose metabolism,"

The researchers found that people living near the plant had bodily PCB levels four times higher than the national average. Their diabetes risk was also two to four times higher.

"PCBs are indestructible," Silverstone said. "They stay in the cell and they keep the receptor turned on. So what you have is a problem when a switch is turned on that should be turned on and off, and that is what raises serious health problems because then the cells get deranged."

Sources for this story include: www.reuters.com; www.kvue.com.

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