Air pollution associated with adverse birth outcomes


Prenatal exposure to industrial air pollutants increases risk of adverse birth outcomes in infants.

Industrial air pollution increases risk of adverse birth outcomes (ABOs), according to a recent review.1

Investigators gathered studies and articles from PubMed and Scopus databases, containing data on mothers with live-born infants with prenatal exposure to industrial air pollutants. Data on low birth weight (LWB), term low birth weight, preterm birth (PTB), and small for gestational age of the infants was taken and analyzed to see how industrial air pollutants exposure affected these ABOs.

Birth outcomes were affected by industrial air pollutants, such as PM2.5, PAHs, benzene, and cadmium. LBW and PTB were the most commonly affected outcomes throughout the 45 studies included in the review. Air pollution from power plants and petrochemical industries was strongly associated with ABOs in infants.

In 2021, a study was published showcasing the effects of air pollution on ABOs.2 Over 4000 singleton live births In the Netherlands were analyzed and a dispersion model was used to characterize individual-level exposure of mothers to air pollutants.

Mothers saw a moderate increase in exposure to industrial air pollutants from industrial sources compared to background concentration from other sources. NOX, SO2, and VOC were highly emitted pollutants from these industrial sources.

LBW was seen in cases of NOX, SO2, and VOC exposure during pregnancy. NOX and VOC exposure also increased risk of PTB, which could lead to conditions such as reduced insulin sensitivity in children.

Birth weight, birth length, and head circumference were all significantly affected by exposure to industrial air pollutants during pregnancy. In cases of higher exposure, birth weight could be as low as 21g to 30g.

As air pollutants were highly correlated, it is possible that the observed effects of one pollutant can be matched to another. Investigators noted SO2 as the most important component, most often leading to PTB and LBW.

The study correlated with the data from the review, associating exposure to industrial air pollutants with ABOs. Investigators conducting the review concluded that industrial air pollution should be considered an important factor in ABOs.


  1. Veber T, Dahal U, Lang K, Orru K, Orru H. Industrial air pollution leads to adverse birth outcomes: a systematized review of different exposure metrics and health effects in newborns. Public Health Rev. 2022;43:1604775. doi:10.3389/phrs.2022.1604775
  2.  Bergstra AD, Brunekreef B, Burdorf A. The influence of industry-related air pollution on birth outcomes in an industrialized area. Environmental Pollution. 2021;269. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115741
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