Prenatal ambient ultrafine particle exposure and childhood asthma in the northeastern United States

Rosalind J. Wright, Hsiao Hsien Leon Hsu, Yueh Hsiu Mathilda Chiu, Brent A. Coull, Matthew C. Simon, Neelakshi Hudda, Joel Schwartz, Itai Kloog, John L. Durant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Rationale: Ambient ultrafine particles (UFPs; with an aerodynamic diameter, 0.1 mm) may exert greater toxicity than other pollution components because of their enhanced oxidative capacity and ability to translocate systemically. Studies examining associations between prenatal UFP exposure and childhood asthma remain sparse. Objectives: We used daily UFP exposure estimates to identify windows of susceptibility of prenatal UFP exposure related to asthma in children, accounting for sex-specific effects. Methods: Analyses included 376 mother–child dyads followed since pregnancy. Daily UFP exposure during pregnancy was estimated by using a spatiotemporally resolved particle number concentration prediction model. Bayesian distributed lag interaction models were used to identify windows of susceptibility for UFP exposure and examine whether effect estimates varied by sex. Incident asthma was determined at the first report of asthma (3.6 6 3.2 yr). Covariates included maternal age, education, race, and obesity; child sex; nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and temperature averaged over gestation; and postnatal UFP exposure. Measurements and Main Results: Women were 37.8% Black and 43.9% Hispanic, with 52.9% reporting having an education at the high school level or lower; 18.4% of children developed asthma. The cumulative odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for incident asthma per doubling of the UFP exposure concentration across pregnancy was 4.28 (1.41–15.7), impacting males and females similarly. Bayesian distributed lag interaction models indicated sex differences in the windows of susceptibility, with the highest risk of asthma seen in females exposed to higher UFP concentrations during late pregnancy. Conclusions: Prenatal UFP exposure was associated with asthma development in children, independent of correlated ambient NO2 and temperature. Findings will benefit future research and policymakers who are considering appropriate regulations to reduce the adverse effects of UFPs on child respiratory health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)788-796
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Child asthma
  • Prenatal
  • Sensitive windows
  • Sex-specific
  • Ultrafine particles


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