Early-life exposure to residential black carbon and childhood cardiometabolic health

Chloe Friedman, Dana Dabelea, Deborah H. Glueck, William B. Allshouse, John L. Adgate, Kayleigh P. Keller, Sheena E. Martenies, Sheryl Magzamen, Anne P. Starling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Early life exposure to air pollution, such as particulate matter ≤2.5 μm (PM2.5), may be associated with obesity and adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes in childhood. However, the toxicity of PM2.5 varies according to its chemical composition. Black carbon (BC) is a constituent of PM2.5, but few studies have examined its impact on childhood cardiometabolic health. Therefore, we examined relationships between prenatal and early childhood exposure to BC and markers of adiposity and cardiometabolic health in early childhood. Methods: This study included 578 mother-child pairs enrolled in the Healthy Start study (2009–2014) living in the Denver-metro area. Using a spatiotemporal prediction model, we assessed average residential black carbon levels during pregnancy and in the year prior to the early childhood follow-up visit at approximately 5 years old. We estimated associations between prenatal and early childhood BC and indicators of adiposity and cardiometabolic biomarkers in early childhood (mean 4.8 years; range, 4.0, 8.3), using linear regression. Results: We found higher early childhood BC was associated with higher percent fat mass, fat mass index, insulin, and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), and lower leptin and waist circumference at approximately 5 years old, after adjusting for covariates. For example, per interquartile range (IQR) increase in early childhood BC (IQR, 0.49 μg/m3) there was 3.32% higher fat mass (95% CI; 2.05, 4.49). Generally, we did not find consistent evidence of associations between prenatal BC and cardiometabolic health outcomes in early childhood, except for an inverse association between prenatal BC and adiponectin, an adipocyte-secreted hormone typically inversely associated with adiposity. Conclusions: Higher early childhood, but not in utero, ambient concentrations of black carbon, a component of air pollution, were associated with greater adiposity and altered insulin homeostasis at approximately 5 years old. Future studies should examine whether these changes persist later in life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117285
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Dec 15 2023


  • Adiposity
  • Air pollution
  • Black carbon
  • Early childhood
  • Lipids
  • Prenatal exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Biochemistry


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