The effect of ambient carbon monoxide on low birth weight among children born in southern California between 1989 and 1993

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Jan;107(1):17-25. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9910717.


We evaluated the effect of carbon monoxide (CO) exposures during the last trimester of pregnancy on the frequency of low birth weight among neonates born 1989-1993 to women living in the Los Angeles, California, area. Using birth certificate data for that period, we assembled a retrospective cohort of infants whose mothers resided within 2 miles of 1 of 18 CO monitoring stations. Based on the gestational age and birth date of each child, we estimated last-trimester exposure by averaging the corresponding 3 months of daily CO concentrations registered at the monitoring station closest to the mother's residence (determined from the birth certificate). Where data were available (at 6 stations), we also averaged measurements taken daily for nitrogen dioxide and ozone and those taken at 6-day intervals for particulate matter [less than/equal to]10 microm (PM10) to approximate last-trimester exposures to other pollutants. Overall, the study cohort consisted of 125,573 singleton children, excluding infants born before 37 or after 44 weeks of gestation, those weighing below 1,000 or above 5,500 g at birth, those for whom fewer than 10 days of CO measurements were available during the last trimester, and those whose mothers suffered from hypertension, diabetes, or uterine bleeding during pregnancy. Within the cohort, 2,813 (2.2%) were low in birth weight (between 1,000 and 2,499 g). Exposure to higher levels of ambient CO (>5.5 ppm 3-month average) during the last trimester was associated with a significantly increased risk for low birth weight [odds ratio (OR) = 1.22; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.03-1.44] after adjustment for potential confounders, including commuting habits in the monitoring area, sex of the child, level of prenatal care, and age, ethnicity, and education of the mother.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Birth Weight / drug effects*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Carbon Monoxide / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Air Pollutants
  • Carbon Monoxide