Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Birthweight: Differences in Associations Along the Birthweight Distribution

Epidemiology. 2019 Sep;30(5):617-623. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001039.


Background: Maternal exposure to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) during pregnancy is associated with lower newborn birthweight, which is a risk factor for chronic disease. Existing studies typically report the average association related with PM2.5 increase, which does not offer information about potentially varying associations at different points of the birthweight distribution.

Methods: We retrieved all birth records in Massachusetts between 2001 and 2013 then restricted our analysis to full-term live singletons (n = 775,768). Using the birthdate, gestational age, and residential address reported at time of birth, we estimated the average maternal PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy of each birth. PM2.5 predictions came from a model that incorporates satellite, land use, and meteorologic data. We applied quantile regression to quantify the association between PM2.5 and birthweight at each decile of birthweight, adjusted for individual and neighborhood covariates. We considered effect modification by indicators of individual and neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES).

Results: PM2.5 was negatively associated with birthweight. An interquartile range increase in PM2.5 was associated with a 16 g [95% confidence interval (CI) = 13, 19] lower birthweight on average, 19 g (95% CI = 15, 23) lower birthweight at the lowest decile of birthweight, and 14 g (95% CI = 9, 19) lower birthweight at the highest decile. In general, the magnitudes of negative associations were larger at lower deciles. We did not find evidence of effect modification by individual or neighborhood SES.

Conclusions: In full-term live births, PM2.5 and birthweight were negatively associated with more severe associations at lower quantiles of birthweight.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Birth Weight*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Registries
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter