Why Are Pesticides Bad for You? The Startling Link Between Pesticide Exposure and Diabetes

Research confirms yet another reason that pesticides are bad for your health. Pesticide exposure can significantly increase your risk for diabetes.

pesticide exposure

Individual pesticides that have been show to increase diabetes risk include chlordane, oxylchlordane, trans-nonachlor, DDT, DDE dieldrin, heptachlor, and HCB.

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Recently, the topic of pesticides has come up a lot in conversation. People wonder, are pesticides really that bad? Are they actually something to avoid at all costs, or are the dangers of pesticides hyped up to be more than they really are? We’ve previously reported on the link between pesticides and autism, reduced male fertility, and cognitive impairments in children. And if those weren’t reasons enough to avoid pesticides, there is now evidence that pesticide exposure is also linked to diabetes risk.

Pesticide Exposure Raises Diabetes Risk By A Shocking Amount

Researchers presented findings from a meta-analysis of 21 studies at the 2015 meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. [1] They looked at the association between exposure to any type of pesticides and diabetes, using data from over 66,000 individuals.

The results showed that pesticide exposure increased the risk for any type of diabetes by 61 percent, and for type 2 diabetes specifically by 64 percent.

Individual pesticides that increased diabetes risk included chlordane, oxylchlordane, trans-nonachlor, DDT, DDE dieldrin, heptachlor, and HCB.

Another study from 2015 found similar results, showing that dioxins, PCBs, and chlorinated pesticides were significantly associated with type 2 diabetes risk.[2]

Researchers had previously determined that glucose control and insulin sensitivity worsened over decades of exposure to pollutants like PCBs and organochlorine pesticides.[3] These findings provide support for the idea that over time, pesticides may lead to changes in glucose metabolism, eventually leading to the development of diabetes.

Here’s How to Limit Your Pesticide Exposure

Many of the pesticides listed above have been banned for years. Nonetheless, they don’t go away overnight, and they persist in our soil and water. They still show up in meat, dairy, and fish, and may be present in products imported from other countries.

To reduce your exposure to these older pesticides, take these steps:

  • Avoid high-fat meat and dairy, which tend to have higher levels of the older pesticides like DDT.
  • Check local advisories on fish toxicity before purchasing to be sure there aren’t warnings against contamination.
  • Buy organic produce when you can. Read The Dirty Dozen Foods List for help shopping organic on a budget or when your selection of organic foods is limited.
  • Avoid using pesticides in your home or garden. Choose organic products to get rid of pests and weeds, or try making your own. For all-natural solutions, read our blog, Safe DIY Pest Control & Weed Repellents.

Share Your Experience

Do you buy organic food? Why or why not? How do you avoid pesticide exposure yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Chelsea Clark contributed to this blog.


This article was originally published in 2015. It is regularly updated. 

[1] EASD Abstract. 2015 Sept 15.

[2] J Diabetes. 2015 Jun 29. [Epub ahead of print]

[3] Environ Res. 2015 Feb;137:485-94.

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