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Association between ambient air pollution and birth weight in São Paulo, Brazil
  1. N Gouveia1,
  2. S A Bremner2,
  3. H M D Novaes1
  1. 1Departamento de Medicina Preventiva, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
  2. 2Department of Community Health Sciences, St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr N Gouveia
 Departamento de Medicina Preventiva, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo–FMUSP, Av Dr Arnaldo, 455, São Paulo–01246-903–SP–Brazil;


Objectives: Previous studies have implicated air pollution in increased mortality and morbidity, especially in the elderly population and children. More recently, associations with mortality in infants and with some reproductive outcomes have also been reported. The aim of this study is to explore the association between exposure to outdoor air pollution during pregnancy and birth weight.

Design: Cross sectional study using data on all singleton full term live births during a one year period. For each individual birth, information on gestational age, type of delivery, birth weight, sex, maternal education, maternal age, place of residence, and parity was available. Daily mean levels of PM10, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone were also gathered. The association between birth weight and air pollution was assessed in regression models with exposure averaged over each trimester of pregnancy.

Setting: São Paulo city, Brazil.

Results: Birth weight was shown to be associated with length of gestation, maternal age and instruction, infant gender, number of antenatal care visits, parity, and type of delivery. On adjusting for these variables negative effects of exposure to PM10 and carbon monoxide during the first trimester were observed. This effect seemed to be more robust for carbon monoxide. For a 1 ppm increase in mean exposure to carbon monoxide during the first trimester a reduction of 23 g in birth weight was estimated.

Conclusions: The results are consistent in revealing that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy may interfere with weight gain in the fetus. Given the poorer outlook for low birthweight babies on a number of health outcomes, this finding is important from the public health perspective.

  • CO, carbon monoxide
  • SO2, sulphur dioxide
  • NO2, nitrogen dioxide
  • TSP, total suspended particle
  • O3, ozone
  • GAM, generalised additive models
  • air pollution
  • birth outcomes
  • birth weight

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