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This study tested the hypothesis, suggested by several recent reports, that air pollution may increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes. This study analyzed all singleton live births registered by the Czech national birth register in 1991 in 67 districts where at least one pollutant was monitored in 1990-1991 (n = 108,173). Maternal exposures to sulfur dioxide (SO(2)), total suspended particles (TSP), and nitrous oxides (NO(x)) in each trimester of pregnancy were estimated as the arithmetic means of all daily measurements taken by all monitors in the district of birth of each infant. Odds ratios of low birth weight (< 2,500 g), prematurity (< 37 weeks of gestation), and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR; < 10th percentile of birth weight for gestational age and sex) were estimated by robust logistic regression. The median (and 25th and 75th percentile) trimester exposures were 32 (18, 56) microg/m(3) for SO(2); 72 (55, 87) microg/m(3) for TSP; and 38 (23, 59) microg/m(3) for NO(x). Low birth weight (prevalence 5.2%) and prematurity (prevalence 4.8%) were associated with SO(2) and somewhat less strongly with TSP. IUGR was not associated with any pollutant. The effects on low birth weight and prematurity were marginally stronger for exposures in the first trimester, and were not attenuated at all by adjustment for socioeconomic factors or the month of birth. Adjusted odds ratios of low birth weight were 1.20 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.11-1.30] and 1.15 (CI, 1.07-1.24) for a 50 microg/m(3) increase in SO(2) and TSP, respectively, in the first trimester; adjusted odds ratios of prematurity were 1.27 (CI, 1.16-1.39) and 1.18 (CI, 1.05-1.31) for a 50 microg/m(3) increase in SO(2) and TSP, respectively, in the first trimester. Low gestational age accounted for the association between SO(2) and low birth weight. These findings provide further support for the hypothesis that air pollution can affect the outcome of pregnancy.