The Association between Ambient PM2.5 and Low Birth Weight in California

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Oct 19;19(20):13554. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192013554.


Previous studies have shown associations between air pollutants and low birth weight. However, few studies assess whether poverty and race/ethnicity are effect modifiers for this relationship. We used publicly available data on 7785 California census tracts from the California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen). Multivariable linear regression was used to examine the association between outdoor PM2.5 and low birth weight (LBW), including stratification by poverty and race/ethnicity (as a proxy for experienced racism). A 1 µg m-3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with a 0.03% (95% CI: 0.01, 0.04) increase in the percentage of LBW infants in a census tract. The association between PM2.5 and LBW was stronger in census tracts with the majority living in poverty (0.06% increase; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.08) compared to those with fewer people living in poverty (0.02% increase; 95% CI: 0.00, 0.03). Our results show that exposure to outdoor PM2.5 is associated with a small increase in the percentage of LBW infants in a census tract, with a further increase in tracts with high poverty. The results for effect modification by race/ethnicity were less conclusive.

Keywords: air pollution; ecologic study; epidemiology; low birth weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Birth Weight
  • California / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Poverty
  • Racism*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter