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Large-scale European cohort study associates PM concentrations with low birthweight
15 October 2013
A large-scale study assessing the effect of maternal exposure to low concentrations of ambient air pollution on birthweight has associated PM concentrations with restricted fetal growth and low birthweight, which is linked with adverse respiratory health in childhood. The study, published in the journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, was part of the EU-funded ESCAPE-European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects project.
The research team pooled data from 14 population-based mother—child cohort studies in 12 European countries. The total study population included 74,178 women who had singleton deliveries between 11 Feb 1994, and 2 June 2011, and for whom information about infant birthweight, gestational age, and sex was available.
Mean concentrations of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2·5 μm (PM2.5), less than 10 μm (PM10), and between 2·5 μm and 10 μm during pregnancy were estimated at maternal home addresses with temporally adjusted land-use regression models, as was PM2.5 absorbance and concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxides.
The researchers also investigated traffic density on the nearest road and total traffic load.
The primary outcome of interest was low birthweight at term (weight <2,500 g (5.5 lbs) at birth after 37 weeks of gestation).
Among their findings:
A 5 μg/m3 increase in concentration of PM2.5 during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of low birthweight at term.
An increased risk was also recorded for pregnancy concentrations lower than the present European Union annual PM2.5 limit of 25 μg/m3.
PM10, NO2, and traffic density on nearest street were also associated with increased risk of low birthweight at term.
The population attributable risk estimated for a reduction in PM2.5 concentration to 10 μg/m3 during pregnancy corresponded to a decrease of 22% (95% CI 8—33%) in cases of low birthweight at term.
ESCAPE, which launched in 2008, is a collaboration of more than 30 European cohort studies including some 900,000 subjects in total. It is aimed at quantifying health impacts of air pollution and at reducing uncertainty. ESCAPE focused on four categories of cohort studies:
- Pregnancy outcome and birth cohort studies
- Studies on respiratory disease in adults
- Studies on cardiovascular disease in adults
- Studies on cancer incidence and mortality.
ESCAPE was a response to a specific FP7 call for a large collaborative project in the Environment and Health program.
Pedersen, M. et al. (2013) “Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE)” The Lancet Respiratory Medicine doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(13)70192-9
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