Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollutants and early infant growth and adiposity in the Southern California Mother's Milk Study

Environ Health. 2021 Jun 5;20(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s12940-021-00753-8.


Background: Prior epidemiological and animal work has linked in utero exposure to ambient air pollutants (AAP) with accelerated postnatal weight gain, which is predictive of increased cardiometabolic risk factors in childhood and adolescence. However, few studies have assessed changes in infant body composition or multiple pollutant exposures. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine relationships between prenatal residential AAP exposure with infant growth and adiposity.

Methods: Residential exposure to AAP (particulate matter < 2.5 and 10 microns in aerodynamic diameter [PM2.5, PM10]; nitrogen dioxide [NO2]; ozone [O3]; oxidative capacity [Oxwt: redox-weighted oxidative potential of O3 and NO2]) was modeled by spatial interpolation of monitoring stations via an inverse distance-squared weighting (IDW2) algorithm for 123 participants from the longitudinal Mother's Milk Study, an ongoing cohort of Hispanic mother-infant dyads from Southern California. Outcomes included changes in infant growth (weight, length), total subcutaneous fat (TSF; calculated via infant skinfold thickness measures) and fat distribution (umbilical circumference, central to total subcutaneous fat [CTSF]) and were calculated by subtracting 1-month measures from 6-month measures. Multivariable linear regression was performed to examine relationships between prenatal AAP exposure and infant outcomes. Models adjusted for maternal age, pre-pregnancy body mass index, socioeconomic status, infant age, sex, and breastfeeding frequency. Sex interactions were tested, and effects are reported for each standard deviation increase in exposure.

Results: NO2 was associated with greater infant weight gain (β = 0.14, p = 0.02) and TSF (β = 1.69, p = 0.02). PM10 and PM2.5 were associated with change in umbilical circumference (β = 0.73, p = 0.003) and TSF (β = 1.53, p = 0.04), respectively. Associations of Oxwt (pinteractions < 0.10) with infant length change, umbilical circumference, and CTSF were modified by infant sex. Oxwt was associated with attenuated infant length change among males (β = -0.60, p = 0.01), but not females (β = 0.16, p = 0.49); umbilical circumference among females (β = 0.92, p = 0.009), but not males (β = -0.00, p = 0.99); and CTSF among males (β = 0.01, p = 0.03), but not females (β = 0.00, p = 0.51).

Conclusion: Prenatal AAP exposure was associated with increased weight gain and anthropometric measures from 1-to-6 months of life among Hispanic infants. Sex-specific associations suggest differential consequences of in utero oxidative stress. These results indicate that prenatal AAP exposure may alter infant growth, which has potential to increase childhood obesity risk.

Keywords: Air pollution; Childhood obesity; DOHaD; Infant health; PM2.5; Prenatal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • California
  • Child Development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Ozone / adverse effects
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen Dioxide

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.14738802.v1