Air Pollution Exposure During Pregnancy and Fetal Markers of Metabolic Function: The MIREC Study

Am J Epidemiol. 2016 May 1;183(9):842-51. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv256. Epub 2016 Mar 29.


Previous evidence suggests that exposure to outdoor air pollution during pregnancy could alter fetal metabolic function, which could increase the risk of obesity in childhood. However, to our knowledge, no epidemiologic study has investigated the association between prenatal exposure to air pollution and indicators of fetal metabolic function. We investigated the association between maternal exposure to nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter (aerodynamic diameter ≤2.5 µm) and umbilical cord blood leptin and adiponectin levels with mixed-effects linear regression models among 1,257 mother-infant pairs from the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study, conducted in Canada (2008-2011). We observed that an interquartile-range increase in average exposure to fine particulate matter (3.2 µg/m(3)) during pregnancy was associated with an 11% (95% confidence interval: 4, 17) increase in adiponectin levels. We also observed 13% (95% confidence interval: 6, 20) higher adiponectin levels per interquartile-range increase in average exposure to nitrogen dioxide (13.6 parts per billion) during pregnancy. Significant associations were seen between air pollution markers and cord blood leptin levels in models that adjusted for birth weight z score but not in models that did not adjust for birth weight z score. The roles of prenatal exposure to air pollution and fetal metabolic function in the potential development of childhood obesity should be further explored.

Keywords: adiponectin; air pollution; birth cohort; leptin; maternal exposure; pregnancy; umbilical cord blood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Adiponectin
  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Leptin
  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide