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Epidemiology. 2014 Jul;25(4):518-25. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000107.

Residential proximity to major roads and term low birth weight: the roles of air pollution, heat, noise, and road-adjacent trees.

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From the aCentre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain; bCIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain; cOffice of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency, Oakland, CA; dDepartment of Maternal-Foetal Medicine, ICGON, Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; eUniversitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain; fInstitute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Division Environmental Epidemiology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands; gSchool of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; and hJulius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Maternal residential proximity to roads has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. However, there is no study investigating mediators or buffering effects of road-adjacent trees on this association. We investigated the association between mothers' residential proximity to major roads and term low birth weight (LBW), while exploring possible mediating roles of air pollution (PM(2.5), PM(2.5-10), PM(10), PM(2.5) absorbance, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrogen oxides), heat, and noise and buffering effect of road-adjacent trees on this association.


This cohort study was based on 6438 singleton term births in Barcelona, Spain (2001-2005). Road proximity was measured as both continuous distance to and living within 200 m from a major road. We assessed individual exposures to air pollution, noise, and heat using, respectively, temporally adjusted land-use regression models, annual averages of 24-hour noise levels across 50 m and 250 m, and average of satellite-derived land-surface temperature in a 50-m buffer around each residential address. We used vegetation continuous fields to abstract tree coverage in a 200-m buffer around major roads.


Living within 200 m of major roads was associated with a 46% increase in term LBW risk; an interquartile range increase in heat exposure with an 18% increase; and third-trimester exposure to PM(2.5), PM(2.5-10), and PM10 with 24%, 25%, and 26% increases, respectively. Air pollution and heat exposures together explained about one-third of the association between residential proximity to major roads and term LBW. Our observations on the buffering of this association by road-adjacent trees were not consistent between our 2 measures of proximity to major roads.


An increased risk of term LBW associated with proximity to major roads was partly mediated by air pollution and heat exposures.

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