Maternal exposure to low levels of ambient air pollution and preterm birth in Brisbane, Australia

BJOG. 2006 Aug;113(8):935-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2006.01010.x.


Background: [corrected] There is evidence that maternal exposure to ambient air pollution during pregnancy is associated with adverse birth outcomes.

Objective: To assess preterm birth (PTB) in relation to maternal exposure to ambient air pollution.

Design: Retrospective cohort.

Setting: Brisbane, Australia.

Population: A total of 28,200 singleton live births for the period of 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2003.

Methods: Average maternal exposure estimates for ambient particulate matter (PM(10) and bsp), ozone (O(3)) and nitrogen dioxide were calculated over the first 3 months after last menstrual period (LMP) and the last 3 months prior to birth (individually and combined as trimesters).

Main outcome measures: PTB was defined as gestation <37 weeks and odds ratios (OR) were calculated for PTB per interquartile range increase in the maternal exposure estimate for each pollutant. Various covariates were controlled for, including season of birth.

Results: Exposure to PM(10) and O(3) during trimester one was associated with an increased risk of PTB (OR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.06-1.25 and OR = 1.26, 95% CI 1.10-1.45, respectively). The PM(10) exposure effect associated with trimester one was strongly related to exposure during the first month post-LMP (PM(10), month one; OR = 1.19, 95% CI 1.13-1.26).

Conclusion: These results suggest that maternal exposure to low levels of ambient air pollution is associated with PTB.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / toxicity*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / epidemiology*
  • Ozone / toxicity*
  • Particle Size
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen Dioxide