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Int J Epidemiol. 2018 Feb 26. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyy019. [Epub ahead of print]

Effects of prenatal exposure to ambient air pollutant PM10 on ultrasound-measured fetal growth.

Author information

Department of Scientific Research, Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing, China.
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA.
Gansu Provincial Maternity and Child Care Hospital, Lanzhou, Gansu, China.
Department of Biostatistics, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA.
Gansu Academy of Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu, China.
Department of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Ecocardiography, Beijing Children's Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT, USA.



Limited epidemiological studies have investigated the relationship between prenatal exposure to ambient particulate matter and risk of abnormal fetal growth, and have reached inconclusive results. No study has been conducted in areas with very high air pollution levels. We investigated the hypothesis that exposure to high levels of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter no larger than 10 µm (PM10) during pregnancy increases the risk of abnormal fetal growth.


A birth cohort study was performed in Lanzhou, China, 2010-12, including 8877 pregnant women with 18 583 ultrasound measurements of four fetal growth parameters during pregnancy, including biparietal diameter (BPD), femur length (FL), head circumference (HC) and abdominal circumference (AC). Mixed-effects modelling was used to examine the associations between PM10 exposure and risk of abnormal fetal growth.


When average PM10 exposure from conception until the ultrasound examination exceeded 150 µg/m3, there were significant increases in standardized FL (β = 0.095, P = 0.0012) and HC (β = 0.090, P = 0.0078) measures. When average PM10 exposure was treated as continuous variable, we found a significant decrease in standardized BPD (β = -0.018, P = 0.0016) as per 10 µg/m3 increase in PM10. After examining the associations by various exposure windows, positive associations between higher levels of PM10 and fetal overgrowth were consistently seen for HC measures.


Our study suggested that prenatal exposure to high levels of ambient PM10 increased the risk of abnormal fetal growth. The findings from our study have important public health implications and also call for future studies to explore the underlying mechanisms and post-natal consequences of these findings.


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