Maternal fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure and adverse birth outcomes: an updated systematic review based on cohort studies

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2019 May;26(14):13963-13983. doi: 10.1007/s11356-019-04644-x. Epub 2019 Mar 20.


Exposure to ambient air pollutants during pregnancy may be associated with numerous side health effects and adverse birth outcomes. Growing numbers of studies have explored a possible linkage between prenatal exposure to PM2.5 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm) and impacts on fetal development. We aimed to conduct a systematic review based on published cohort studies to summarize evidence regarding the association between maternal PM2.5 exposure and birth outcomes, including birth weight, low birth weight (LBW), preterm birth (PTB), and small for gestational age (SGA). Eligible studies meeting the following criterion were selected: PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy and live birth singletons, certain presentation of sample sizes, and quantitative evaluation of the associations between exposure and outcomes. Among the 42 selected studies, 23 evaluated the impact of prenatal PM2.5 exposure on birth weight of infants while 12 of them provided a significantly negative association for exposure and birth weight. Twenty-one studies aimed to identify the possible relationship between maternal exposure and LBW and 8 studies proved significant associations. Among 18 studies that explored the correlation between prenatal exposure and PTB, 9 reached a consistent conclusion that gestational exposure would add to the risk of PTB. Nine studies assessed the impact of PM2.5 on SGA and 5 of them demonstrated a significant effect. So far, linkages between maternal PM2.5 exposure during varied gestational stages and multiple adverse birth outcomes have been observed in many studies. A summary of them will be meaningful for further research on maternal exposure and adverse birth outcomes.

Keywords: Air pollution; Low birth weight; Preterm birth; Small for gestational age; Term low birth weight.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Birth Weight
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Premature Birth / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter