Background: Epidemiologic studies have reported inconsistent findings for the association between air pollution levels and blood pressure (BP), which has been studied mainly in elderly subjects. Short-term air pollution effects on BP have not been investigated in pregnant women, who may constitute a vulnerable population.
Methods: Between 2002 and 2006, 1500 pregnant women from a mother-child cohort study conducted in Nancy and Poitiers, France, underwent 11,220 repeated BP measurements (average, 7.5 measurements/woman). Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter below 10 μm (PM₁₀), and meteorologic variables were measured on an hourly basis at permanent monitoring sites. We studied changes of BP in relation to short-term variations of air pollution and temperature with mixed models adjusted for meteorologic and personal characteristics.
Results: A 10°C decrease in temperature led to an increase in systolic BP of 0.5% (95% confidence interval = 0.1% to 1.0%). Elevated NO₂-levels 1 day, 5 days and averaged over 7 days before the BP measurement were associated with reduced systolic BP. The strongest decrease was observed for the 7-day NO₂ average (-0.4% [-0.7% to -0.2%] change for an 11 μg/m³ increase in NO₂). PM₁₀ effects on systolic BP differed according to pregnancy trimester: PM₁₀ concentration was associated with systolic BP increases during the first trimester and systolic BP decreases later in pregnancy.
Conclusions: We observed short-term associations of air pollution and of temperature with BP in pregnant women. Whether such changes in BP have clinical implications remains to be investigated.