A review of the literature on the effects of ambient air pollution on fetal growth

Environ Res. 2004 May;95(1):106-15. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2004.01.001.


A systematic review of the literature on the effects of air pollution on low birth weight (LBW) and its determinants, preterm delivery (PTD) and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), was conducted. Twelve epidemiologic investigations that addressed the impact of air pollution on four pregnancy outcomes were identified. Results were analyzed separately for each perinatal outcome because of differences in pathogenic mechanisms. Effects of air pollution were apparent on PTD and IUGR, but not on LBW. Most of the associations reported were rather small. The estimation of summary effects was not meaningful because of the heterogeneity of the effect estimates arising from differences in the measurements of outcome, exposure, and confounders and the small number of studies per outcome (four studies for PTD and six for IUGR). Current scientific knowledge on the impact of air pollution on fetal growth is still limited; thus, several issues should be examined further.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / chemically induced*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Fetus / embryology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / chemically induced*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy


  • Air Pollutants