Ambient Volatile Organic Compounds and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: Are Asian/Pacific Islander Women at Greater Risk?

Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Feb 1;188(2):389-397. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy256.


US Asian/Pacific Islander (API) communities experience high air pollution levels. APIs may be predisposed to pancreatic β-cell dysfunction and have the highest prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) compared with other racial/ethnic groups. Exposure to high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) impairs pancreatic β-cell function, leading to insulin resistance, but racial/ethnic differences in this association are unexamined. We analyzed singleton deliveries (n = 220,065) from the Consortium on Safe Labor (2002-2008). Exposure to 14 VOCs in each hospital referral region was based on modified Community Multiscale Air Quality models. Logistic regression estimated odds ratios for GDM associated with high (≥75th percentile) versus low (<75th percentile) VOC exposure 3 months before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. Preconception and first-trimester exposure to high VOC levels was associated with increased odds of GDM among whites and APIs. GDM risk was significantly higher for APIs than whites for most VOCs. Preconception benzene exposure was associated with 29% (95% confidence interval: 12, 47) increased odds of GDM among whites compared with 45% (95% confidence interval: 16, 81) increased odds among APIs. These findings highlight environmental health disparities affecting pregnant women. Increased focus on GDM risk in US API communities is warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Asian Americans*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Volatile Organic Compounds