Saharan dust episodes and pregnancy

J Environ Monit. 2011 Nov;13(11):3222-8. doi: 10.1039/c1em10579e. Epub 2011 Oct 3.


Desert dust is one of the natural contributors to atmospheric particulate matter worldwide. Although particulate pollution has been shown to adversely affect pregnancy, the available evidence on the impact of dust episodes on pregnancy is very scarce. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of Saharan dust episodes on pregnancy complications (preeclampsia and bacteriuria) and outcomes (birth weight and gestational age at delivery). This study was based on a cohort of births (N = 3565) that occurred in a major university hospital in Barcelona during 2003-2005. To determine Saharan dust episodes, we developed a two-stage approach based on meteorological evidence of the presence of Saharan dust cloud over the region and unusually high levels of particulate levels on the ground while taking account of traffic sources. The associations between the number of Saharan dust episodes during whole pregnancy as well as each pregnancy trimester and pregnancy complications and outcomes were analysed. There were 152 days (out of 838 days) with Saharan dust cloud over the region from which 45 days were determined as episodic days. We did not observe any statistically significant harmful effect of Saharan dust episodes on our included pregnancy complications and outcomes. However, we observed a small but statistically significant increase in gestational age at delivery in association with the number of episodic days during the third trimester and whole pregnancy (0.8 and 0.5 days respectively). Our findings were not suggestive for any adverse effect of Saharan dust episodes on our included pregnancy complications and outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Northern
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Bacteriuria / etiology*
  • Birth Weight
  • Dust* / analysis
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Linear Models
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spain
  • Weather*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dust