Portable HEPA filter air cleaner use during pregnancy and children's body mass index at two years of age: The UGAAR randomized controlled trial

Environ Int. 2021 Nov;156:106728. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106728. Epub 2021 Jul 2.


Importance: Gestational exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution may increase the risk of childhood obesity, but the impact of reducing air pollution during pregnancy on obesity-related outcomes in childhood has not been examined.

Objective: To assess the impact of reducing gestational PM exposure on body mass index (BMI) at two years of age.

Methods: In this single-blind, parallel group randomized controlled trial in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, we randomly assigned 540 pregnant women to receive 1-2 portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air cleaners or no air cleaners. We measured height and weight when children were a mean age of 23.8 months. Our primary outcome was age- and sex-specific BMI z-score based on the World Health Organization 2007 Growth Charts. Secondary outcomes included age- and sex-specific weight z score, overweight/obesity (defined as BMI z-score > 2.00), and catch-up growth (defined using various cut-offs to identify children with relatively low birth weight for sex and gestational age and relatively high age- and sex-specific weight in childhood). We imputed missing outcome data using multiple imputation with chained equations and our primary analysis was by intention to treat (ITT). We estimated intervention effects on continuous and binary outcomes using linear and logistic regression, respectively.

Results: After excluding known miscarriages, still births, and neonatal deaths our analysis included 480 children (235 control and 245 intervention). The mean (SD) child BMI z score was 0.79 (1.0); 9.8% of children were overweight or obese. The mean BMI z score of children who were randomly assigned to the intervention group was 0.16-units lower (95% CI: -0.35, 0.04) than children in the control group. The intervention was also associated with reductions in overweight/obesity (odds ratio = 0.59; 95% CI: 0.31, 1.12). Catch-up growth occurred less frequently in the intervention group, but effect estimates varied depending on the specific definition of catch-up growth and confidence intervals consistently spanned no effect.

Conclusions: We found that the use of portable air cleaners during pregnancy was associated with improvements in obesity-related outcomes, although some effect estimates lacked precision. Reducing PM exposure during pregnancy may lead to improvements in cardiometabolic health in childhood.

Keywords: Adiposity; Coal; DOHaD; Intervention; Programming; RCT.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Filters*
  • Air Pollution*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Overweight
  • Pediatric Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Single-Blind Method