Prenatal exposure to fine particulate matter and birth weight: Variations by particulate constituents and sources

Background: Exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) during pregnancy has been linked to lower birth weight; however, the chemical composition of PM2.5 varies widely. The health effects of PM2.5 constituents are unknown.

Methods: We investigated whether PM2.5 mass, constituents, and sources are associated with birth weight for term births. PM2.5 filters collected in 3 Connecticut counties and 1 Massachusetts county from August 2000 through February 2004 were analyzed for more than 50 elements. Source apportionment was used to estimate daily contributions of PM2.5 sources, including traffic, road dust/crustal, oil combustion, salt, and regional (sulfur) sources. Gestational and trimester exposure to PM2.5 mass, constituents, and source contributions were examined in relation to birth weight and risk of small-at-term birth (term birth <2500 g) for 76,788 infants.

Results: Road dust and related constituents such as silicon and aluminum were associated with lower birth weight, as were the motor-vehicle-related species such as elemental carbon and zinc, and the oil-combustion-associated elements vanadium and nickel. An interquartile range increase in exposure was associated with low birthweight for zinc (12% increase in risk), elemental carbon (13%), silicon (10%), aluminum (11%), vanadium (8%), and nickel (11%). Analysis by trimester showed effects of third-trimester exposure to elemental carbon, nickel, vanadium, and oil-combustion PM2.5.

Conclusions: Exposures of pregnant women to higher levels of certain PM2.5 chemical constituents originating from specific sources are associated with lower birth weight.

Prenatal exposure to fine particulate matter and birth weight: Variations by particulate constituents and sources

Publication Date: 
Monday, November 1, 2010
Authors: 
Bell, Michelle L.
Belanger, Kathleen
Ebisu, Keita
Gent, Janneane F.
Lee, Hyung Joo
Koutrakis, Petros
Leaderer, Brian P.
Journal: 
Epidemiology 21(6), p. 884-891