Hormones play critical roles in facilitating pregnancy progression and the onset of parturition. Several classes of environmental contaminants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ambient temperature, have been shown to alter hormone biosynthesis or activity. However, epidemiologic research has not considered PM2.5 in relation to a broader range of steroid hormones, particularly in pregnant women. Using metabolomics data collected within 20–40 weeks of gestation in an ethnically diverse pregnancy cohort study, we identified 42 steroid hormones that we grouped into five classes (pregnenolone, androgens, estrogens, progestin, and corticosteroids) based on their biosynthesis type. We found that exposure to PM2.5 during the pre-conception and early prenatal periods was associated with higher maternal androgen concentrations in late pregnancy. We also detected a positive association between early pregnancy PM2.5 exposure and maternal pregnenolone levels and a marginal positive association between early pregnancy PM2.5 exposure and progestin levels. When considering each hormone metabolite individually, we found positive associations between early pregnancy PM2.5 exposure and five steroids, two of which survived multiple comparison testing: 11beta-hydroxyandrosterone glucuronide (a pregnenolone steroid) and adrosteroneglucuronide (a progestin steroid). None of the steroid classes were statistically significant associated with ambient temperature. In sex-stratified analyses, we did not detect any sex differences in our associations. This is the first study showing that exposure to fine particulate matter during the pre-conception and early prenatal periods can lead to altered steroid adaptation during the state of pregnancy, which has been shown to have potential consequences on maternal and child health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107320
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Air pollution
  • Maternal steroids
  • Preconception exposure
  • Prenatal exposure
  • Temperature


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