Prenatal exposure to traffic and ambient air pollution and infant weight and adiposity: The Healthy Start study

Anne P. Starling, Brianna F. Moore, Deborah S.K. Thomas, Jennifer L. Peel, Weiming Zhang, John L. Adgate, Sheryl Magzamen, Sheena E. Martenies, William B. Allshouse, Dana Dabelea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prenatal exposures to ambient air pollution and traffic have been associated with adverse birth outcomes, and may also lead to an increased risk of obesity. Obesity risk may be reflected in changes in body composition in infancy. Objective: To estimate associations between prenatal ambient air pollution and traffic exposure, and infant weight and adiposity in a Colorado-based prospective cohort study. Methods: Participants were 1125 mother-infant pairs with term births. Birth weight was recorded from medical records and body composition measures (fat mass, fat-free mass, and adiposity [percent fat mass]) were evaluated via air displacement plethysmography at birth (n = 951) and at ~5 months (n = 574). Maternal residential address was used to calculate distance to nearest roadway, traffic density, and ambient concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) via inverse-distance weighted interpolation of stationary monitoring data, averaged by trimester and throughout pregnancy. Adjusted linear regression models estimated associations between exposures and infant weight and body composition. Results: Participants were urban residents and diverse in race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Average ambient air pollutant concentrations were generally low; the median, interquartile range (IQR), and range of third trimester concentrations were 7.3 μg/m3 (IQR: 1.3, range: 3.3–12.7) for PM2.5 and 46.3 ppb (IQR: 18.4, range: 21.7–63.2) for 8-h maximum O3. Overall there were few associations between traffic and air pollution exposures and infant outcomes. Third trimester O3 was associated with greater adiposity at follow-up (2.2% per IQR, 95% CI 0.1, 4.3), and with greater rates of change in fat mass (1.8 g/day, 95% CI 0.5, 3.2) and adiposity (2.1%/100 days, 95% CI 0.4, 3.7) from birth to follow-up. Conclusions: We found limited evidence of an association between prenatal traffic and ambient air pollution exposure and infant body composition. Suggestive associations between prenatal ozone exposure and early postnatal changes in body composition merit further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109130
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Adiposity
  • Air pollution
  • Infant
  • Pregnancy
  • Traffic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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