Objectives: Research evidence suggests that exposure to ambient air pollutants can adversely affect the growth and development of the foetus and infant survival. Much less is known regarding the potential for an association between black smoke air pollution and stillbirth risk. This potential association was examined using data from the historical cohort UK Particulate Matter and Perinatal Events Research (PAMPER) study.
Methods: Using data from paper-based neonatal records from the two major maternity hospitals in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK), a birth record database of all singletons born during 1961-1992 to mothers resident in the city was constructed. Weekly black smoke levels were obtained from routine data recorded at 20 air pollution monitoring stations over the study period. A two-stage statistical modelling strategy was used, incorporating temporally and spatially varying covariates to estimate black smoke exposure during each trimester and for the whole pregnancy period for each individual pregnancy. Conditional logistic regression models, with stratification on year of birth, were used to assess potential associations between black smoke exposures in pregnancy and stillbirth risk.
Results: The PAMPER database consists of 90,537 births, between 1962 and 1992, with complete gestational age and residential address information, of which 812 were stillborn. There was no association between black smoke exposures in any trimester or across whole pregnancy and risk of stillbirth. Adjustment for potential confounders did not alter these results.
Conclusions: While black smoke in pregnancy is likely to be related to other pregnancy outcomes, our findings do not suggest that black smoke air pollution exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth.