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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 May;119(5):731-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002785. Epub 2010 Dec 14.

Ambient air pollution and birth weight in full-term infants in Atlanta, 1994-2004.

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Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.



An emerging body of evidence suggests that ambient levels of air pollution during pregnancy are associated with fetal growth.


We examined relationships between birth weight and temporal variation in ambient levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), sulfur dioxide (SO₂), ozone, particulate matter ≤ 10 μm in diameter (PM₁₀), ≤ 2.5 μm (PM(2.5)), 2.5 to 10 µm (PM(2.5-10)), and PM(2.5) chemical component measurements for 406,627 full-term births occurring between 1994 and 2004 in five central counties of metropolitan Atlanta.


We assessed relationships between birth weight and pollutant concentrations during each infant's first month of gestation and third trimester, as well as in each month of pregnancy using distributed lag models. We also conducted capture-area analyses limited to mothers residing within 4 miles (6.4 km) of each air quality monitoring station.


In the five-county analysis, ambient levels of NO₂, SO₂, PM(2.5) elemental carbon, and PM(2.5) water-soluble metals during the third trimester were significantly associated with small reductions in birth weight (-4 to -16 g per interquartile range increase in pollutant concentrations). Third-trimester estimates were generally higher in Hispanic and non-Hispanic black infants relative to non-Hispanic white infants. Distributed lag models were also suggestive of associations between air pollutant concentrations in late pregnancy and reduced birth weight. The capture-area analyses provided little support for the associations observed in the five-county analysis.


Results provide some support for an effect of ambient air pollution in late pregnancy on birth weight in full-term infants.

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