Abnormal fetal growth linked to air pollutants

By Julie Griffiths on 23 February 2018 Fetal Abnormalities / Birth Defects

A new study suggests mothers exposed to high levels of certain air pollutants during pregnancy have a higher risk of abnormal fetal growth.

The research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, is based on data collected from more than 8000 women in Lanzhou, China from 2010 to 2012.

The researchers analysed data from the Lanzhou Birth Cohort Study to investigate the theory that exposure to high levels of PM10 (a diverse class of air pollution with health implications) during pregnancy increases the risk of abnormal fetal growth, including both undergrowth and overgrowth.

They hoped to determine if and how expectant mothers could protect themselves from possible contributing pollutants.

In collaboration with researchers from the Gansu Provincial Maternity and Child Care Hospital, the scientists from Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) collected the daily average concentration for PM10 from the government monitoring stations in Lanzhou.

Using ultrasound measures of four fetal growth parameters during pregnancy, the researchers examined the associations between PM10 exposure and risk of abnormal fetal growth.  

The team consistently identified positive associations between higher levels of exposure to a mixture of pollutants from car fumes, industry emissions, or construction activities and fetal head circumference overgrowth, they said.  

Pregnant women’s home and work addresses were collected through in-person interviews, and researchers calculated daily PM10 concentrations by incorporating each participant’s home and work addresses.  

YSPH associate professor Yawei Zhang said: ‘Our results have important public health implications and call for future studies to explore the underlying mechanisms and postnatal consequences to the findings.

‘We are going to replicate the findings in another birth cohort and will continue to identify individuals who are more susceptible to air pollution.’