Ambient PM gross β-activity and glucose levels during pregnancy

Environ Health. 2021 Jun 14;20(1):70. doi: 10.1186/s12940-021-00744-9.


Background: Exposure to ionizing radiation has been associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In light of recent work showing an association between ambient particulate matter (PM) gross β-activity and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) among pregnant women, we examined pregnancy glucose levels in relation to PM gross β-activity to better understand this pathway.

Methods: Our study included 103 participants receiving prenatal care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. PM gross β-activity was obtained from US Environmental Protection Agency's RadNet program monitors, and blood glucose levels were obtained from the non-fasting glucose challenge test performed clinically as the first step of the 2-step GDM screening test. For each exposure window we examined (i.e., moving average same-day, one-week, first-trimester, and second-trimester PM gross β-activity), we fitted generalized additive models and adjusted for clinical characteristics, socio-demographic factors, temporal variables, and PM with an aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5). Subgroup analyses by maternal age and by body mass index were also conducted.

Results: An interquartile range increase in average PM gross β-activity during the second trimester of pregnancy was associated with an increase of 17.5 (95% CI: 0.8, 34.3) mg/dL in glucose concentration. Associations were stronger among younger and overweight/obese participants. Our findings also suggest that the highest compared to the lowest quartile of one-week exposure was associated with 17.0 (95% CI: - 4.0, 38.0) mg/dL higher glucose levels. No associations of glucose were observed with PM gross β-activity during same-day and first-trimester exposure windows. PM2.5 was not associated with glucose levels during any exposure window in our data.

Conclusions: Exposure to higher levels of ambient PM gross β-activity was associated with higher blood glucose levels in pregnant patients, with implications for how this novel environmental factor could impact pregnancy health.

Keywords: Blood glucose; Gestational diabetes; Glucose metabolism; Particle radioactivity; Pregnancy; Pregnancy complications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Beta Particles
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Pregnancy


  • Air Pollutants
  • Blood Glucose
  • Particulate Matter

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.14782638.v1