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Disparities in Environmental Exposures to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Diabetes Risk in Vulnerable Populations

Burgeoning epidemiological, animal, and cellular data link environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to metabolic dysfunction. Disproportionate exposure to diabetes-associated EDCs may be an underappreciated contributor to disparities in metabolic disease risk. The burden of diabetes is not uniformly borne by American society; rather, this disease disproportionately affects certain populations, including African Americans, Latinos, and low-income individuals. The purpose of this study was to review the evidence linking unequal exposures to EDCs with racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diabetes disparities in the U.S.; discuss social forces promoting these disparities; and explore potential interventions. Articles examining the links between chemical exposures and metabolic disease were extracted from the U.S. National Library of Medicine for the period of 1966 to 3 December 2016. EDCs associated with diabetes in the literature were then searched for evidence of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic exposure disparities. Among Latinos, African Americans, and low-income individuals, numerous studies have reported significantly higher exposures to diabetogenic EDCs, including polychlorinated biphenyls, organochlorine pesticides, multiple chemical constituents of air pollution, bisphenol A, and phthalates. This review reveals that unequal exposure to EDCs may be a novel contributor to diabetes disparities. Efforts to reduce the individual and societal burden of diabetes should include educating clinicians on environmental exposures that may increase disease risk, strategies to reduce those exposures, and social policies to address environmental inequality as a novel source of diabetes disparities.

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