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Maternal Exposure to Air Pollution and Adverse Birth Outcomes in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Poirier, Abbey MSc; Dodds, Linda PhD; Dummer, Trevor PhD; Rainham, Daniel PhD; Maguire, Bryan BSc; Johnson, Markey PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2015 - Volume 57 - Issue 12 - p 1291–1298
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000604

Objective: We aimed to examine the associations between exposure to air pollution exposure and the outcomes of preterm birth (PTB), term low birth weight (TLBW), and small for gestational age.

Methods: We conducted a population-based cohort study using a perinatal database linked to land-use regression-modeled air pollution data.

Results: Compared with women in the lowest quartile of toluene exposure, those in the second lowest quartile showed a positive association with PTB (odds ratio = 1.35, 95% confidence interval: 1.12, 1.63). A piecewise logistic regression breakpoint analysis identified a cut point (identifying a change in the slope) of 0.36 μg/m3 for toluene and the risk of PTB. There was also some evidence to suggest an association between sulfur dioxide and TLBW.

Conclusions: This study provides some evidence to suggest that in an area of relatively low air pollution concentration, maternal exposure to some air pollutants may be associated with adverse birth outcomes.

Department of Community Health and Epidemiology (Ms Poirier, Dr Dodds); Perinatal Epidemiology Research Unit (Dr Dodds), Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia; School of Population and Public Health (Dr Dummer), University of British Columbia, Vancouver; Environmental Science (Dr Rainham); Department of Statistics (Mr Maguire), Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Air Health Science Division (Dr Johnson), Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

Address correspondence to: Linda Dodds, PhD, Perinatal Epidemiology Research Unit, 7th Floor Women's Site, Room 7108B, IWK Health Centre, 5980 University Avenue, P.O. Box 9700, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3K 6R8 (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine