The Influence of Meteorological Factors and Atmospheric Pollutants on the Risk of Preterm Birth

Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Feb 15;185(4):247-258. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww141.


Atmospheric pollutants and meteorological conditions are suspected to be causes of preterm birth. We aimed to characterize their possible association with the risk of preterm birth (defined as birth occurring before 37 completed gestational weeks). We pooled individual data from 13 birth cohorts in 11 European countries (71,493 births from the period 1994-2011, European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE)). City-specific meteorological data from routine monitors were averaged over time windows spanning from 1 week to the whole pregnancy. Atmospheric pollution measurements (nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) were combined with data from permanent monitors and land-use data into seasonally adjusted land-use regression models. Preterm birth risks associated with air pollution and meteorological factors were estimated using adjusted discrete-time Cox models. The frequency of preterm birth was 5.0%. Preterm birth risk tended to increase with first-trimester average atmospheric pressure (odds ratio per 5-mbar increase = 1.06, 95% confidence interval: 1.01, 1.11), which could not be distinguished from altitude. There was also some evidence of an increase in preterm birth risk with first-trimester average temperature in the -5°C to 15°C range, with a plateau afterwards (spline coding, P = 0.08). No evidence of adverse association with atmospheric pollutants was observed. Our study lends support for an increase in preterm birth risk with atmospheric pressure.

Keywords: atmospheric pollution; atmospheric pressure; cohort studies; humidity; meteorological conditions; pooled analysis; preterm birth; temperature.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Atmospheric Pressure*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Meteorological Concepts*
  • Premature Birth / chemically induced
  • Premature Birth / etiology*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Urban Health


  • Air Pollutants