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Diabetes Rising; Ten Hills Farm; Teen Voices

In his new book, “Diabetes Rising,” medical journalist Dan Hurley documents a seemingly inexplicable cluster of type 1 diabetes cases in Weston, Mass. This sudden uptick in Boston’s wealthiest suburb raises big questions about socioeconomics, lifestyle, and the cause of the disease. Dan Hurley joins us live from NYC.

Also, journalist C. S. Manegold’s latest book, “Ten Hills Farm,” blows away the popular notion that Boston kept its hands clean of the slave trade.  As Black History Month wraps up, we talk with Manegold and visit Ten Hills Farm in Medford, where five generations of powerful New England families held slaves.

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  • Elizabeth

    It’s not just Weston. We live on the South Shore, where clusters also have been identified. For instance, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 at 16, six months after a 10-year-old boy from our same street got his diagnosis. Less than a year later, a girl farther down on the same cul de sac received a Type 1 diagnosis. None of the families had immediate histories of Type 1 diabetes. From the strong and vocal Type 1 parents’ community, we hear anecdotally of similar situations in neighboring towns.

  • Alyssa Owens

    The childhood diabetes can have something to do with endocrine disruption brought on by chemcial exposure. Lawn pesticides are endocrine disruptors. Has anyone looked into how many lawns in this well-off town are chemically treated? For more information on lawn pesticides and children, go to Beyond Pesticides.com.

  • Drew

    “Lawn pesticides are endocrine disruptors”

    indeed, well off folks are consumers of Whole Foods, but guilty as hell of making sure their lawns are green and mean. The sooner we all get off reliance on chemicals the sooner we can all stop dying of cancer and other diseases.

  • Tamara

    Another potential cause of the increase in type 1 diabetes within certain subpopulations could be exposure to certain types of vaccines. When I was diagnosed with type 1 in my mid-20′s, one of the questions I was asked was if I’d traveled outside the country and received vaccinations prior to traveling (I had). A lot of wealthier families travel to exotic places with their children, where they might be receiving vaccines that they would otherwise not receive (e.g. yellow fever), or at a time outside of the typical vaccination schedule. I don’t know of any studies that have examined this association.

  • Michelle

    I think we’re missing the point if we’re only focusing on the Weston/wealth connection. Diabetes is on an increase everywhere – we’re in Central Mass and it’s on the rise here too, yet we’re certainly not wealthy. I am afraid that if Type 1 diabetes is looked at as simply a disease of “rich kids” funding and support for families without insurance and families with little means, will be overlooked and though of as unnecessary, and overall support in the public sphere for the plight of children with type 1 diabetes will diminish.

  • Joan

    My son was diagnosed 2 months ago and we live in Needham. I talked with a woman yesterday whose son was diagnosed days ago and I know other families within a mile or two of my house who have diabetic children. What about Needham and Concord and other similar towns? How were Weston and Newton determined to be hot spots when it is tough to know how many Type 1 diabetics are out there? Could there be other clusters?

    One more thing — diabetes is a wretched condition that is manageable but constant. How do parents who are struggling to stay afloat, who both work 2 jobs, manage to keep the glucose evels where they need to be?

  • Liza

    I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes during my junior year of high school. At the time I was in a youth ballet company, dancing 5+ days a week, at the same time as I was stressing out about getting all A’s in my academic classes. That spring, I had a string of illnesses (nothing major, a few colds, a small fever, etc.), and the 7am-11pm days were really wearing me down. I lost 20 lbs in 3 weeks, despite eating more, and was constantly thirsty. When I finally went to the doctor’s office, my fasting blood sugar was 533 and the diagnosis was pretty obvious.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if other kids from affluent families that have the means to engage in many extracurricular activities, and have a lot of pressure to do well in school are so overstretched, that they are highly susceptible to stress-related illnesses (as a result of a suppressed immune system), that they are more apt to reach the tipping point where an auto-immune disorder would develop.

  • Ann Marie Kreft

    David from Weston,

    Of course, we welcome you and your family with open arms! Looking forward to meeting you.

    Ann Marie

  • Michelle

    It’s not just kids from wealthy suburbs. It is so misleading and dangerous to characterize it as such. My son was diagnosed last year from Braintree(not a wealthy suburb). We use no chemicals on our lawn and eat almost completely organic. I recently heard on the BBC a report of the huge increase in Western Europe as well
    Type 1 is an awful disease that robs a child of their “childhood” and causes parents constant anxiety. When I sit at my 9 year olds basketball game, I am not thinking about whether he will get a basket or have a good game, I am thinking”I hope is blood sugar will be ok until the half.”

  • Elyse Shuster

    We live in Belmont, and our daughter was diagnosed last March at age 10 3/4. We are going on one year and it is very difficult. One of our neighbors across the street was also diagnosed at age 10 – she’s in college now, but I know at the Chenery middle school there are 8 or 9 kids in the school who have Type 1. I’ve notice that most of the JDRF “coffees” for parents are pretty far away – i.e. Hopkinton, so I haven’t participated, but would be interested in a group closer to Belmont – Newton, Weston, etc. Our daughter’s diagnosis came about a month or 2 after a couple of viral infections (minor winter sore throat/cold), but we are convinced that these were the triggers, since there is a family history. Neither of her older sisters (14 and 16) have the disease (yet!). As far as the size/weight issue, I find that hard to swallow since all of the kids with Type 1 that I know are, if anything, petite!

  • Coleen

    Another great show on WBUR. I am heartbroken to hear of this rise in type 1 diabetes having lived with this awful disease for 28 years. I thought there were HLA and other genetic factors that could be measured to predict whether people would get diabetes with whatever virus triggers it. My kids were in a prevention study at Joslin years ago. Anyway, my heart goes out to parents dealing with this disease. At least now we have pumps, cgms and hope for a cure.

  • Michelle

    Elyse – I fully agree there – I can’t think of a single child I’ve met who has been overweight at diagnosis. Most are already thin and then lose a ton of weight at diagnosis.

    I also disagree with Mr. Hurley’s connection between formula/ cows milk and diabetes. If he’s stating an increase in type 1 in the suburbs, and we know that is a fact, and we know that affluent moms tend to breastfeed at a higher percentage than their poorer peers, then wouldn’t it seem unlikely that formula feeding is a cause? we could just as easily say that breastfeeding causes type 1 diabetes since most of these suburb moms probably breastfed and their urban peers did not.

    I think Mr. Hurley has over generalized.

  • Michelle

    sorry it seems as if there are 2 michelle’s here. :)

  • Joanna

    I think that there may be a larger problem than we think. Type I diabetes is an auto-immune disorder; it is thought that the islet cells are destroyed by the immune system because the immune system suddenly sees the islet cells as foreign. I think that there may be an overall increase in all auto-immune diseases, Type I diabetes simply being the most prevalent. My daughter was diagnosed with Graves’ disease last year. It is an auto-immune disease that attacks the eyes and thyroid. Our neighbor’s son has Crohn’s disease, which is a disease of the gut. Perhaps something is disturbing the normal balance of the immune systems of younger people. By the way, we live in Wellesley, 2 miles from the “cluster”.

  • Michelle

    Joanna – I agree with you as well. We have mulitple autoimmune diseases in our immediate family and I see that with almost every Diabetes family I speak with: Brothers/sisters/moms/dads with celiac, hashimotos, graves, rheumatoid, psoriasis, alopecia. There definitely is a rise in Autoimmune disease across the board.

  • Colleen

    I live in Weston and am a member of the parent support group mentioned in the show. In 1998 I was diagnosed with Type 1 as an adult, three years later my brother (not a resident of Massachusetts) was diagnosed with Type 1 as an adult, three years after that my 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1. My sister was tested through the TrialNet program and was categorized as high risk which means she will most likely develop Type 1 as well. Before me, there were zero cases of this disease in my family. Go figure.

    Ann Marie used the Weston/Newton/Wellesley cluster to draw attention to the need for a STATEWIDE reporting of cases of Type 1 Diabetes to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) Bureau of Environmental Health (BEH). The BEH is now collecting data on the number of children with diabetes in elementary and middle schools across Massachusetts and will hopefully expand it to include high schools. This tracking program of pediatric diabetes is the only statewide system of its kind in the United States. This will enable them to identify clusters in communities other than the three mentioned in the program as well as provide data to help cure this disease. Kudos to Ann Marie!

  • James

    I agree with Alyssa Owens but would go further. We use dozens of untested pesticides to make our lawns green and keep bugs from our homes. Pesticides are proven to be linked to diabetes and numerous other disease. They are known endocrine disruptors. Instead of waiting till there is total proof and it is too late, wiser countries are taking the better safe than sorry route. In Canada, the EU and numerous other countries these pesticides are now being banned from lawns. For a real eye opener goto

    Inner city poorer children are exposed via insecticides in the home or schools Breast milk is loaded with pesticides as is our food. When EWG tested the umbilical cord blood of 10 Americans, they found nearly 300 chemicals.

    Maybe its time to STOP poisoning our air, water and lawns with lawn chemicals and see if these outbreaks stabilize or go down. The worst thing is you might have a few more dandelions in the lawn or ants to deal with in the kitchen.

  • James

    Diabetes 2 has been linked to Arsenic for well over 10 years. CCA the preservative used in pressure treated lumber is still everywhere but now banned for many uses. GOOGLE arsenic or CCA and diabetes and you will have a long list of scientific studies to digest.

    EPA Petitioned to Regulate Endocrine Disruptors

  • William L. Wilson, M.D.

    Both type I and type II diabetes have been increasing at epidemic proportions in our population. The experts and medical profession has no idea why. I am in the process of finishing a book on this topic. We now know why this is occurring. Keeps your eyes open. Soon you will have the answer.

    William L. Wilson, M.D,

  • Tammy

    I live in a community similar to Weston. My eldest daughter was diagonsed with type 1 diabetes a year and 1/2 ago. She was 12 at the time. We have a family history of type 1 with one cousin diagonsed as a 12 year old but two others diagonsed with type 1 as adults.

    In our community there have been 3 children diagnosed with type 1 in the last couple of months. I am not sure of the national statistics, but we seem to have a cluster of children in our community.

    I have not seen any study by the State to study the what appears to be a rise in type 1 diabetes. Although I for one would be in support of further study on this seemingly epidemic outbreak.

    It is a heart breaking disease, that robs our children of their childhood. My hope is that we will find a cure for this disease in our children’s life time.

  • mary

    We live in Medford. My 3 year old was diagnosed with type 1 one year ago. I was told there was another child diagnosed in my town at the same time. This is no life for a child. My heart breaks for her everytime I have to give her insulin or wake her in the middle of the night to check a sugar. She is a trooper but I am anxoius about her future. They nust find a cure or at the least the culprit so we can save other children from this fate.

  • Danni Czapla

    We live in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our son was diagnosed last year when he was seven. He is now eight,and though he is doing really well, my heart aches for him every minute of the day. We can’t accept that our children have to live like this! What can we do collectively to help the research process — to encourage solutions and cures now?! There is power in numbers! Does anyone have any idea?

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