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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 208947, 19 pages
Review Article

Can Exposure to Environmental Chemicals Increase the Risk of Diabetes Type 1 Development?

1Department of Food, Water and Cosmetics, Division of Environmental Medicine, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, P.O. Box 4404, Nydalen, 0403 Oslo, Norway
2Department of Chronic Diseases, Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, P.O. Box 4404, Nydalen, 0403 Oslo, Norway

Received 28 June 2014; Accepted 14 September 2014

Academic Editor: Jill M. Norris

Copyright © 2015 Johanna Bodin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is an autoimmune disease, where destruction of beta-cells causes insulin deficiency. The incidence of T1DM has increased in the last decades and cannot entirely be explained by genetic predisposition. Several environmental factors are suggested to promote T1DM, like early childhood enteroviral infections and nutritional factors, but the evidence is inconclusive. Prenatal and early life exposure to environmental pollutants like phthalates, bisphenol A, perfluorinated compounds, PCBs, dioxins, toxicants, and air pollutants can have negative effects on the developing immune system, resulting in asthma-like symptoms and increased susceptibility to childhood infections. In this review the associations between environmental chemical exposure and T1DM development is summarized. Although information on environmental chemicals as possible triggers for T1DM is sparse, we conclude that it is plausible that environmental chemicals can contribute to T1DM development via impaired pancreatic beta-cell and immune-cell functions and immunomodulation. Several environmental factors and chemicals could act together to trigger T1DM development in genetically susceptible individuals, possibly via hormonal or epigenetic alterations. Further observational T1DM cohort studies and animal exposure experiments are encouraged.