Post-natal exposure to air pollution is associated with diminished lung growth during school age. The current authors aimed to determine whether pre-natal exposure to air pollution is associated with lung function changes in the newborn. In a prospective birth cohort of 241 healthy term-born neonates, tidal breathing, lung volume, ventilation inhomogeneity and exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) were measured during unsedated sleep at age 5 weeks. Maternal exposure to particles with a 50% cut-off aerodynamic diameter of 10 microm (PM(10)), nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)) and ozone (O(3)), and distance to major roads were estimated during pregnancy. The association between these exposures and lung function was assessed using linear regression. Minute ventilation was higher in infants with higher pre-natal PM(10) exposure (24.9 mL x min(-1) per microg x m(-3) PM(10)). The eNO was increased in infants with higher pre-natal NO(2) exposure (0.98 ppb per microg x m(-3) NO(2)). Post-natal exposure to air pollution did not modify these findings. No association was found for pre-natal exposure to O(3) and lung function parameters. The present results suggest that pre-natal exposure to air pollution might be associated with higher respiratory need and airway inflammation in newborns. Such alterations during early lung development may be important regarding long-term respiratory morbidity.