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Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Feb 1;188(2):389-397. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy256.

Ambient Volatile Organic Compounds and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: Are Asian/Pacific Islander Women at Greater Risk?

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Epidemiology Branch, Division of Intramural Population Health Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland.
The Emmes Corporation, Rockville, Maryland.


US Asian/Pacific Islander (API) communities experience high air pollution levels. APIs may be predisposed to pancreatic β-cell dysfunction and have the highest prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) compared with other racial/ethnic groups. Exposure to high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) impairs pancreatic β-cell function, leading to insulin resistance, but racial/ethnic differences in this association are unexamined. We analyzed singleton deliveries (n = 220,065) from the Consortium on Safe Labor (2002-2008). Exposure to 14 VOCs in each hospital referral region was based on modified Community Multiscale Air Quality models. Logistic regression estimated odds ratios for GDM associated with high (≥75th percentile) versus low (<75th percentile) VOC exposure 3 months before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. Preconception and first-trimester exposure to high VOC levels was associated with increased odds of GDM among whites and APIs. GDM risk was significantly higher for APIs than whites for most VOCs. Preconception benzene exposure was associated with 29% (95% confidence interval: 12, 47) increased odds of GDM among whites compared with 45% (95% confidence interval: 16, 81) increased odds among APIs. These findings highlight environmental health disparities affecting pregnant women. Increased focus on GDM risk in US API communities is warranted.

[Available on 2020-02-01]

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