Differences in exposure assignment between conception and delivery: the impact of maternal mobility

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2010 Mar;24(2):200-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2010.01096.x.


In studies of reproductive outcomes, maternal residence at delivery is often the only information available to characterise environmental exposures during pregnancy. The goal of this investigation was to describe residential mobility during pregnancy and to assess the extent to which change of residence may result in exposure misclassification when exposure is based on the address at delivery. Maternal residential mobility was compared between neural tube defect cases and unaffected controls from Texas participants in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS). Maternal residential information was obtained from the NBDPS interview. Data from the U.S. EPA National Air Toxics Assessment [Assessment System for Population Exposure Nationwide (ASPEN)], modelled at the census tract level, were used to estimate benzene exposure based on address at conception and address at delivery. Quartiles of exposure were assigned based on these estimates and the quartile assignments based on address at conception and address at delivery were compared using traditional methods (kappa statistics) and a novel application of mixed-effects ordinal logistic regression. Overall, 30% of case mothers and 24% of control mothers moved during pregnancy. Differences in maternal residential mobility were not significant between cases and controls, other than case mothers who moved did so earlier during pregnancy than control mothers (P = 0.01). There was good agreement between quartiles of estimated benzene exposure at both addresses (kappa = 0.78, P < 0.0001). Based on the mixed-effects regression model, address at delivery was not significantly different from using address at conception when assigning quartile of benzene exposure based on estimates from ASPEN (odds ratio 1.03, 95% confidence interval 0.85, 1.25). Our results indicate that, in this Texas population, maternal residential movement is generally within short distances, is typically not different between cases and controls, and does not significantly influence benzene exposure assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Benzene / analysis
  • Benzene / toxicity
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Neural Tube Defects / epidemiology*
  • Neural Tube Defects / etiology
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Benzene