Relation between ambient air pollution and low birth weight in the Northeastern United States

Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Jun;109 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):351-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.01109s3351.


We evaluated the relation between term low birth weight (LBW) and ambient air levels of carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter up to 10 microm in diameter (PM(10)), and sulfur dioxide (SO(2)). The study population consisted of singleton, term live births (37-44 weeks of gestation) born between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1996 in six northeastern cities of the United States: Boston, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Washington, DC. Birth data were obtained from National Center for Health Statistics Natality Data Sets. Infants with a birth weight < 2,500 g were classified as LBW. Air monitoring data obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were used to estimate average trimester exposures to ambient CO, PM(10), and SO(2). Our results suggest that exposures to ambient CO and SO(2) increase the risk for term LBW. This risk increased by a unit increase in CO third trimester average concentration [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.31; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06,1.62]. Infants with SO(2) second trimester exposures falling within the 25 and < 50th (AOR 1.21; CI 1.07,1.37), the 50 to < 75th (AOR 1.20; CI 1.08,1.35), and the 75 to < 95th (AOR 1.21; CI 1.03,1.43) percentiles were also at increased risk for term LBW when compared to those in the reference category (< 25th percentile). There was no indication of a positive association between prenatal exposures to PM(10) and term LBW. Increased ambient levels of air pollution may be associated with an increased risk for LBW.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Carbon Monoxide / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • New England / epidemiology
  • Particle Size
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sulfur Dioxide / adverse effects*


  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Carbon Monoxide