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    Particulate matter exposure during pregnancy is associated with birth weight, but not gestational age, 1962-1992: a cohort study

    Pearce, Mark S. and Glinianaia, Svetlana V. and Ghosh, Rakesh and Rankin, Judith and Rushton, Steven and Charlton, Martin and Parker, Louise and Pless-Mulloli, Tanja (2012) Particulate matter exposure during pregnancy is associated with birth weight, but not gestational age, 1962-1992: a cohort study. Environmental Health, 11 (13). pp. 1-8. ISSN 1476-069X

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    Background: Exposure to air pollutants is suggested to adversely affect fetal growth, but the evidence remains inconsistent in relation to specific outcomes and exposure windows. Methods: Using birth records from the two major maternity hospitals in Newcastle upon Tyne in northern England between 1961 and 1992, we constructed a database of all births to mothers resident within the city. Weekly black smoke exposure levels from routine data recorded at 20 air pollution monitoring stations were obtained and individual exposures were estimated via a two-stage modeling strategy, incorporating temporally and spatially varying covariates. Regression analyses, including 88,679 births, assessed potential associations between exposure to black smoke and birth weight, gestational age and birth weight standardized for gestational age and sex. Results: Significant associations were seen between black smoke and both standardized and unstandardized birth weight, but not for gestational age when adjusted for potential confounders. Not all associations were linear. For an increase in whole pregnancy black smoke exposure, from the 1st (7.4 μg/m3) to the 25th (17.2 μg/m3), 50th (33.8 μg/m3), 75th (108.3 μg/m3), and 90th (180.8 μg/m3) percentiles, the adjusted estimated decreases in birth weight were 33 g (SE 1.05), 62 g (1.63), 98 g (2.26) and 109 g (2.44) respectively. A significant interaction was observed between socio-economic deprivation and black smoke on both standardized and unstandardized birth weight with increasing effects of black smoke in reducing birth weight seen with increasing socio-economic disadvantage. Conclusions: The findings of this study progress the hypothesis that the association between black smoke and birth weight may be mediated through intrauterine growth restriction. The associations between black smoke and birth weight were of the same order of magnitude as those reported for passive smoking. These findings add to the growing evidence of the harmful effects of air pollution on birth outcomes.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: © 2012 Pearce et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. We thank Richard Hardy who was responsible for maintaining the birth record database and Margaret Fox who geo-referenced large amounts of environmental data. We are grateful to the data entry staff for helping to construct the birth record database. This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust (grant number 072465/Z/ 03/Z). JR was supported by a Career Scientist Award from the National Institute of Health Research (UK Department of Health) during this study.
    Keywords: Black smoke; Particulate matter; Air pollution; Birth weight; Gestational age;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Research Institutes > National Centre for Geocomputation, NCG
    Item ID: 4843
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Martin Charlton
    Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2014 17:01
    Journal or Publication Title: Environmental Health
    Publisher: BioMed Central
    Refereed: Yes
    Funders: Wellcome Trust, National Institute of Health Research (UK Department of Health)

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