Exposure to airborne particulate matter during pregnancy is associated with preterm birth: A population-based cohort study

Emily DeFranco, William Moravec, Fan Xu, Eric Hall, Monir Hossain, Erin N. Haynes, Louis Muglia, Aimin Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Background: Test the hypothesis that exposure to fine particulate matter in the air (PM2.5) is associated with increased risk of preterm birth (PTB). Methods: Geo-spatial population-based cohort study using live birth records from Ohio (2007-2010) linked to average daily measures of PM2.5, recorded by 57 EPA network monitoring stations across the state. Geographic coordinates of the home residence for births were linked to the nearest monitoring station using ArcGIS. Association between PTB and high PM2.5 levels (above the EPA annual standard of 15 μg/m3) was estimated using GEE, with adjustment for age, race, education, parity, insurance, tobacco, birth season and year, and infant gender. An exchangeable correlation matrix for the monitor stations was used in the models. Analyses were limited to non-anomalous singleton births at 20-42weeks with no known chromosome abnormality occurring within 10 km of a monitor station. Results: The frequency of PTB was 8.5 % in the study cohort of 224,921 singleton live births. High PM2.5 exposure (>EPA recommended maximum) occurred frequently during the study period, with 24,662 women (11 %) having high exposure in all three trimesters. Pregnancies with high PM2.5 exposure through pregnancy had increased PTB risk even after adjustment for coexisting risk factors, adjOR 1.19 (95 % CI 1.09-1.30). Assessed per trimester, high 3rd trimester PM2.5 exposure resulted in the highest PTB risk, adjOR 1.28 (95 % CI 1.20-1.37). Conclusions: Exposure to high levels of particulate air pollution, PM2.5, in pregnancy is associated with a 19 % increased risk of PTB; with greatest risk with high 3rd trimester exposure. Although the risk increase associated with high PM2.5 levels is modest, the potential impact on overall PTB rates is robust as all pregnant women are potentially at risk. This exposure may in part contribute to the higher preterm birth rates in Ohio compared to other states in the US, especially in urban areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 DeFranco et al.


  • Air pollution
  • PTB
  • Particulate matter
  • Prematurity
  • Preterm birth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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