Background: A growing body of evidence has associated maternal exposure to air pollution with adverse effects on fetal growth; however, the existing literature is inconsistent.
Objectives: We aimed to quantify the association between maternal exposure to particulate air pollution and term birth weight and low birth weight (LBW) across 14 centers from 9 countries, and to explore the influence of site characteristics and exposure assessment methods on between-center heterogeneity in this association.
Methods: Using a common analytical protocol, International Collaboration on Air Pollution and Pregnancy Outcomes (ICAPPO) centers generated effect estimates for term LBW and continuous birth weight associated with PM10 and PM2.5 (particulate matter ≤ 10 and 2.5 µm). We used meta-analysis to combine the estimates of effect across centers (~ 3 million births) and used meta-regression to evaluate the influence of center characteristics and exposure assessment methods on between-center heterogeneity in reported effect estimates.
Results: In random-effects meta-analyses, term LBW was positively associated with a 10-μg/m3 increase in PM10 [odds ratio (OR) = 1.03; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.05] and PM2.5 (OR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.03, 1.18) exposure during the entire pregnancy, adjusted for maternal socioeconomic status. A 10-μg/m3 increase in PM10 exposure was also negatively associated with term birth weight as a continuous outcome in the fully adjusted random-effects meta-analyses (–8.9 g; 95% CI: –13.2, –4.6 g). Meta-regressions revealed that centers with higher median PM2.5 levels and PM2.5:PM10 ratios, and centers that used a temporal exposure assessment (compared with spatiotemporal), tended to report stronger associations.
Conclusion: Maternal exposure to particulate pollution was associated with LBW at term across study populations. We detected three site characteristics and aspects of exposure assessment methodology that appeared to contribute to the variation in associations reported by centers.