Longitudinal associations of in utero and early life near-roadway air pollution with trajectories of childhood body mass index

Environ Health. 2018 Sep 14;17(1):64. doi: 10.1186/s12940-018-0409-7.


Background: Evidence suggests that childhood near-roadway air pollution (NRAP) exposures contribute to increased body mass index (BMI); however, effects of NRAP exposure during the vulnerable periods including in utero and first year of life have yet to be established. In this study, we examined whether exposure to elevated concentrations of NRAP during in utero and/or first year of life increase childhood BMI growth.

Methods: Participants in the Children's Health Study enrolled from 2002 to 2003 with annual visits over a four-year period and who changed residences before study entry were included (n = 2318). Annual height and weight were measured and lifetime residential NRAP exposures including in utero and first year of life periods were estimated by nitrogen oxides (NOx) using the California line-source dispersion model. Linear mixed effects models assessed in utero or first year near-road freeway and non-freeway NOx exposures and BMI growth after adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, parental education, Spanish questionnaire, and later childhood near-road NOx exposure.

Results: A two-standard deviation difference in first year of life near-road freeway NOx exposure was associated with a 0.1 kg/m2 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.03, 0.2) faster increase in BMI growth per year and a 0.5 kg/m2 (95% CI: 0.02, 0.9) higher attained BMI at age 10 years.

Conclusions: Higher exposure to early life NRAP increased the rate of change of childhood BMI and resulted in a higher attained BMI at age 10 years that were independent of later childhood exposures. These findings suggest that elevated early life NRAP exposures contribute to increased obesity risk in children.

Keywords: Childhood body mass index; Childhood obesity; Early life exposures; In utero exposures; Near-roadway air pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Nitrogen Oxides / analysis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Nitrogen Oxides
  • Vehicle Emissions