Exposure to diabetogenic environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is higher among Latinos, African Americans, and low-income populations, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.

In this systematic review, investigators examined the associations between exposure to EDCs, particularly those that have been linked to diabetes, and racial and sociodemographic factors. Articles included in this review reported on various EDCs, including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, phthalates, bisphenol A, and air pollution.

According to the findings, Latinos, African Americans, and low-income individuals have higher exposure rates to diabetes-linked EDCs than any other ethnic and sociodemographic population groups. Exposure to phthalates, a chemical found in a number of plastics, was linked to low-income populations. Because individuals in this demographic consume greater amounts of processed foods and fewer fresh vegetables and fruits, it is theorized that the phthalates in plastic-wrapped foods may explain why low-income persons experience greater exposure to this chemical. 

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The investigators suggest that the racial segregation of residential areas and “the co-decline of environmental health in these neighborhoods” may also explain why higher EDC exposure is found in specific subsets of the population. Highly segregated urban areas, which have higher rates of industrial air pollution, are another possible example of why diabetes and EDC exposure is high among certain minority groups.

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Following the discovery of these findings, the investigators suggest that, “educating clinicians on environmental exposures that may increase disease risk, strategies to reduce those exposures, and social policies” may reduce the societal burden of diabetes while addressing environmental inequality.


Ruiz D, Becerra M, Jagai JS, Ard K, Sargis RM. Disparities in environmental exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and diabetes risk in vulnerable populations [published online November 15, 2017]. Diabetes Care. doi: 10.2337/dc16-2765