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Environ Health Perspect. 1997 May; 105(5): 514–520.
PMCID: PMC1469882
Research Article

Association between air pollution and low birth weight: a community-based study.


The relationship between maternal exposure to air pollution during periods of pregnancy (entire and specific periods) and birth weight was investigated in a well-defined cohort. Between 1988 and 1991, all pregnant women living in four residential areas of Beijing were registered and followed from early pregnancy until delivery. Information on individual mothers and infants was collected. Daily air pollution data were obtained independently. The sample for analysis included 74,671 first-parity live births were gestational age 37-44 weeks. Multiple linear regression and logistic regression were used to estimate the effects of air pollution on birth weight and low birth weight (< 2,500 g), adjusting for gestational age, residence, year of birth, maternal age, and infant gender. There was a significant exposure-response relationship between maternal exposures to sulfur dioxide (SO2) and total suspended particles (TSP) during the third trimester of pregnancy and infant birth weight. The adjusted odds ratio for low birth weight was 1.11 (95% CI, 1.06-1.16) for each 100 micrograms/m3 increase in SO2 and 1.10 (95% CI, 1.05-1.14) for each 100 micrograms/m3 increase in TSP. The estimated reduction in birth weight was 7.3 g and 6.9 g for each 100 micrograms/m3 increase in SO2 and in TSP, respectively. The birth weight distribution of the high-exposure group was more skewed toward the left tail (i.e., with higher proportion of births < 2,500 g) than that of the low-exposure group. Although the effects of other unmeasured risk factors cannot be excluded with certainty, our data suggests that TSP and SO2, or a more complex pollution mixture associated with these pollutants, contribute to an excess risk of low birth weight in the Beijing population.

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