Traffic-related atmospheric pollutants levels during pregnancy and offspring's term birth weight: a study relying on a land-use regression exposure model

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):1283-92. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10047.


Background: Some studies have suggested that particulate matter (PM) levels during pregnancy may be associated with birth weight. Road traffic is a major source of fine PM (PM with aero-dynamic diameter < 2.5 microm; PM(2.5)).

Objective: We determined to characterize the influence of maternal exposure to atmospheric pollutants due to road traffic and urban activities on offspring term birth weight.

Methods: Women from a birth cohort [the LISA (Influences of Lifestyle Related Factors on the Human Immune System and Development of Allergies in Children) cohort] who delivered a non-premature baby with a birth weight > 2,500 g in Munich metropolitan area were included. We assessed PM(2.5), PM(2.5) absorbance (which depends on the blackness of PM(2.5), a marker of traffic-related air pollution), and nitrogen dioxide levels using a land-use regression model, taking into account the type and length of roads, population density, land coverage around the home address, and temporal variations in pollution during pregnancy. Using Poisson regression, we estimated prevalence ratios (PR) of birth weight < 3,000 g, adjusted for gestational duration, sex, maternal smoking, height, weight, and education.

Results: Exposure was defined for 1,016 births. Taking the lowest quartile of exposure during pregnancy as a reference, the PR of birth weight < 3,000 g associated with the highest quartile was 1.7 for PM(2.5) [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.2-2.7], 1.8 for PM(2.5) absorbance (95% CI, 1.1-2.7), and 1.2 for NO(2) (95% CI, 0.7-1.7). The PR associated with an increase of 1 microg/m(3) in PM(2.5) levels was 1.13 (95% CI, 1.00-1.29).

Conclusion: Increases in PM(2.5) levels and PM(2.5) absorbance were associated with decreases in term birth weight. Traffic-related air pollutants may have adverse effects on birth weight.

Keywords: atmospheric pollution; birth weight; diesel soot; environment; geographic information system; intrauterine growth restriction; particulate matter; pregnancy; reproduction; road traffic; sensitivity analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Birth Weight / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Nitrogen Dioxide