Residential exposure to outdoor air pollution during pregnancy and anthropometric measures at birth in a multicenter cohort in Spain

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Sep;119(9):1333-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002918. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


Background: A growing body of research suggests that prenatal exposure to air pollution may be harmful to fetal development. We assessed the association between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and anthropometric measures at birth in four areas within the Spanish Children's Health and Environment (INMA) mother and child cohort study.

Methods: Exposure to ambient nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and benzene was estimated for the residence of each woman (n = 2,337) for each trimester and for the entire pregnancy. Outcomes included birth weight, length, and head circumference. The association between residential outdoor air pollution exposure and birth outcomes was assessed with linear regression models controlled for potential confounders. We also performed sensitivity analyses for the subset of women who spent more time at home during pregnancy. Finally, we performed a combined analysis with meta-analysis techniques.

Results: In the combined analysis, an increase of 10 µg/m3 in NO2 exposure during pregnancy was associated with a decrease in birth length of -0.9 mm [95% confidence interval (CI), -1.8 to -0.1 mm]. For the subset of women who spent ≥ 15 hr/day at home, the association was stronger (-0.16 mm; 95% CI, -0.27 to -0.04). For this same subset of women, a reduction of 22 g in birth weight was associated with each 10-µg/m3 increase in NO2 exposure in the second trimester (95% CI, -45.3 to 1.9). We observed no significant relationship between benzene levels and birth outcomes.

Conclusions: NO2 exposure was associated with reductions in both length and weight at birth. This association was clearer for the subset of women who spent more time at home.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Benzene / analysis
  • Benzene / toxicity
  • Birth Weight / drug effects
  • Body Size / drug effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Inhalation Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Benzene
  • Nitrogen Dioxide