Infant mortality and air pollution: a comprehensive analysis of U.S. data for 1990

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2000 Aug;50(8):1350-66. doi: 10.1080/10473289.2000.10464168.


This paper uses U.S. linked birth and death records to explore associations between infant mortality and environmental factors, based on spatial relationships. The analysis considers a range of infant mortality end points, regression models, and environmental and socioeconomic variables. The basic analysis involves logistic regression modeling of individuals; the cohort comprises all infants born in the United States in 1990 for whom the required data are available from the matched birth and death records. These individual data include sex, race, month of birth, and birth weight of the infant, and personal data on the mother, including age, adequacy of prenatal care, and smoking and education in most instances. Ecological variables from Census and other sources are matched on the county of usual residence and include ambient air quality, elevation above sea level, climate, number of physicians per capita, median income, racial and ethnic distribution, unemployment, and population density. The air quality variables considered were 1990 annual averages of PM10, CO, SO2, SO4(2-), and "non-sulfate PM10" (NSPM10--obtained by subtracting the estimated SO4(2-) mass from PM10). Because all variables were not available for all counties (especially maternal smoking), it was necessary to consider various subsets of the total cohort. We examined all infant deaths and deaths by age (neonatal and postneonatal), by birth weight (normal and low [< 2500 g]), and by specific causes within these categories. Special attention was given to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For comparable modeling assumptions, the results for PM10 agreed with previously published estimates; however, the associations with PM10 were not specific to probable exposures or causes of death and were not robust to changes in the model and/or the locations considered. Significant negative mortality associations were found for SO4(2-). There was no indication of a role for outdoor PM2.5, but possible contributions from indoor air pollution sources cannot be ruled out, given higher SIDS rates in winter, in the north and west, and outside of large cities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Particle Size
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Sulfuric Acids / adverse effects
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Sulfuric Acids
  • sulfuric acid