Prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and childhood growth trajectories from age 5-14 years

Environ Res. 2019 Oct:177:108595. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.108595. Epub 2019 Jul 19.


There is evidence that exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and fine particles in air pollution are associated with higher childhood body mass index (BMI). Birth cohort analyses of prenatal exposures to PAH and child BMI Z-scores from age 5-14 years were conducted. African-American and Hispanic children born in the Bronx or Northern Manhattan, New York (1998-2006), whose mothers underwent personal air monitoring for airborne PAH exposure during pregnancy, were followed up with measurements of height and weight at approximate ages 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12.5 and 13.5 years. Multivariable generalized estimating equation analyses were used to relate prenatal airborne PAH exposures to child BMI Z-scores through time. The analyses adjusted for many known risk factors for childhood obesity and included interactions terms between age and exposure tertiles and age squared and exposure tertiles. In total, 535 children had at least one height and weight measure during follow-up. The prevalence of obesity was 20.6% at age 5 and increased across follow-ups until age 11 when it was 33.0%. At age 5, BMI Z-scores were significantly greater for children in the third tertile of exposure relative to the first tertile (0.35 Z-score units, 95% CI 0.09, 0.61, p = 0.007) and were non-significantly higher for the second tertile of exposure compared to the first tertile (0.25 Z-score units, 95% CI -0.02, 0.52, P = 0.075). The trajectories of BMI Z-scores by tertiles of exposure converged as the children aged, such that by age 11 years the estimated mean BMI Z-scores associated with each tertile of exposure were not different. Prenatal exposures to airborne PAH were associated with higher childhood BMI Z-scores at a young age, but growth trajectories converged by age 11 years. Accordingly, highly exposed children spend a greater proportion of their childhood with higher BMI Z-scores.

Keywords: Air pollution; Body mass index; Obesity; Pediatric; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollution*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Growth and Development / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • New York
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons