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      Maternal exposure to ambient air pollution and fetal growth in North-East Scotland: A population-based study using routine ultrasound scans


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          Maternal ambient air pollution exposure is associated with reduced birthweight. Few studies have examined the effect on growth in utero and none have examined the effect of exposure to particulates less than 2.5 µm (PM 2.5) and possible effect modification by smoking status.


          Examine the effect of maternal exposure to ambient concentrations of PM 10, PM 2.5 and nitrogen dioxide (NO 2) for in utero fetal growth, size at birth and effect modification by smoking status.


          Administratively acquired second and third trimester fetal measurements (bi-parietal diameter, femur length and abdominal circumference), birth outcomes (weight, crown heel length and occipito-frontal circumference) and maternal details were obtained from routine fetal ultrasound scans and maternity records (period 1994–2009). These were modelled against residential annual pollution concentrations (calendar year mean) adjusting for covariates and stratifying by smoking status.


          In the whole sample ( n = 13,775 pregnancies), exposure to PM 10, PM 2.5 and NO 2 was associated with reductions in measurements at birth and biparietal diameter from late second trimester onwards. Among mothers who did not smoke at all during pregnancy ( n = 11,075), associations between biparietal diameter and pollution exposure remained significant but were insignificant among those who did smoke ( n = 2700). Femur length and abdominal circumference were not significantly associated with pollution exposure.


          Fetal growth is strongly associated with particulates exposure from later in second trimester onwards but the effect appears to be subsumed by smoking. Typical ambient exposures in this study were relatively low compared to other studies and given these results, it may be necessary to consider reducing recommended “safe” ambient air exposures.


          • We examined the effect of maternal pollution exposure for fetal growth and size.

          • Exposure to particulates and NO 2 strongly associated with reductions in head growth and size.

          • Effects were strongest for non-smokers.

          • Pollution effects were observed despite a relatively low exposure environment.

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          Most cited references31

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          A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010

          The Lancet, 380(9859), 2224-2260
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            Cardiovascular mortality and exposure to airborne fine particulate matter and cigarette smoke: shape of the exposure-response relationship.

            Fine particulate matter exposure from both ambient air pollution and secondhand cigarette smoke has been associated with larger risks of cardiovascular mortality than would be expected on the basis of linear extrapolations of the relative risks from active smoking. This study directly assessed the shape of the exposure-response relationship between cardiovascular mortality and fine particulates from cigarette smoke and ambient air pollution. Prospective cohort data for >1 million adults were collected by the American Cancer Society as part of the Cancer Prevention Study II in 1982. Cox proportional hazards regression models that included variables for increments of cigarette smoking and variables to control for education, marital status, body mass, alcohol consumption, occupational exposures, and diet were used to describe the mortality experience of the cohort. Adjusted relative risks of mortality were plotted against estimated average daily dose of fine particulate matter from cigarette smoke along with comparison estimates for secondhand cigarette smoke and air pollution. There were substantially increased cardiovascular mortality risks at very low levels of active cigarette smoking and smaller but significant excess risks even at the much lower exposure levels associated with secondhand cigarette smoke and ambient air pollution. Relatively low levels of fine particulate exposure from either air pollution or secondhand cigarette smoke are sufficient to induce adverse biological responses increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. The exposure-response relationship between cardiovascular disease mortality and fine particulate matter is relatively steep at low levels of exposure and flattens out at higher exposures.
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              Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE).

              Ambient air pollution has been associated with restricted fetal growth, which is linked with adverse respiratory health in childhood. We assessed the effect of maternal exposure to low concentrations of ambient air pollution on birthweight. We pooled data from 14 population-based mother-child cohort studies in 12 European countries. Overall, the study population included 74 178 women who had singleton deliveries between Feb 11, 1994, and June 2, 2011, and for whom information about infant birthweight, gestational age, and sex was available. The primary outcome of interest was low birthweight at term (weight <2500 g at birth after 37 weeks of gestation). 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. We also investigated traffic density on the nearest road and total traffic load. We calculated pooled effect estimates with random-effects models. A 5 μg/m(3) increase in concentration of PM2·5 during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of low birthweight at term (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·18, 95% CI 1·06-1·33). An increased risk was also recorded for pregnancy concentrations lower than the present European Union annual PM2·5 limit of 25 μg/m(3) (OR for 5 μg/m(3) increase in participants exposed to concentrations of less than 20 μg/m(3) 1·41, 95% CI 1·20-1·65). PM10 (OR for 10 μg/m(3) increase 1·16, 95% CI 1·00-1·35), NO2 (OR for 10 μg/m(3) increase 1·09, 1·00-1·19), and traffic density on nearest street (OR for increase of 5000 vehicles per day 1·06, 1·01-1·11) 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/m(3) during pregnancy corresponded to a decrease of 22% (95% CI 8-33%) in cases of low birthweight at term. Exposure to ambient air pollutants and traffic during pregnancy is associated with restricted fetal growth. A substantial proportion of cases of low birthweight at term could be prevented in Europe if urban air pollution was reduced. The European Union. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Environ Int
                Environ Int
                Environment International
                Elsevier Science
                1 October 2017
                October 2017
                : 107
                : 216-226
                [a ]School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
                [b ]Child Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. tom.clemens@ 123456ed.ac.uk
                © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


                fetal growth,ambient air pollution,maternal health,in utero,scotland


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