Effects of air pollution on women’s health and birth outcomes

Posted Date: February 26, 2015

RobledoIn a new study published by Environmental Research, a UNT Health Science Center professor and colleagues have linked air pollution to type 2 diabetes and potential adverse birth outcomes in pregnant women.

Using data collected during the Consortium on Safe Labor (2002-2008), an initiative of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, UNTHSC School of Public Health Assistant Professor Candace Robledo, PhD, MPH, and colleagues reviewed labor and delivery statistics from 12 clinical medical centers and 19 hospitals within different regions across the U.S.

The study – covering over 228,000 deliveries among more than 208,000 women – shows a link between preconception and early pregnancy maternal exposure to EPA-regulated air pollutants and an increased risk of subsequent gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), which may adversely impact birth outcomes.

Average maternal exposures to particulate matter in the air, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone were estimated for the three-month preconception period, first trimester and gestational weeks 1-24 based on modified EPA Community Multiscale Air Quality models for the different regions studied.

The report concluded that preconception maternal exposure to nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide, in particular, provided a higher risk for GDM especially during the first trimester, and that risks from other ozone exposures seemed to increase later in pregnancy. The researchers recommended further investigation into these common exposures on women’s health.

Dr. Robledo teaches in the UNTHSC Department of Behavioral and Community Health and serves as Master of Public Health (MPH) Director of the school’s Maternal and Child Health concentration. She is a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist, focused on maternal and child health, environmental epidemiology and health disparities research. Dr. Robledo has completed two fellowships through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Training Award program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.