Background: Air pollutants, such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3), have been associated with adverse birth outcomes, including low birth weight, often exhibiting sex-specific effects. However, the modifying effect of placental telomere length (TL), reflecting cumulative lifetime oxidative stress in mothers, remains unexplored. Method: Using data from a Northeastern U.S. birth cohort (n = 306), we employed linear regression and weighted quantile sum models to assess trimester-average air pollution exposures and birth weight for gestational age (BWGA) z-scores. Placental TL, categorized by median split, was considered as an effect modifier. Interactions among air pollutants, placental TL, infant sex, and BWGA z-score were evaluated. Results: Without placental TL as a modifier, only 1st trimester O3 was significantly associated with BWGA z-scores (coefficient: 0.33, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.63). In models considering TL interactions, a significant modifying effect was observed between 3rd trimester NO2 and BWGA z-scores (interaction p-value = 0.02). Specifically, a one interquartile range (1-IQR) increase in 3rd trimester NO2 was linked to a 0.28 (95% CI: 0.06, 0.52) change in BWGA z-score among shorter placental TL group, with no significant association among longer TL group. Among male infants, there were significant associations between 3rd trimester PM2.5 exposure and BWGA z-scores in the longer TL group (coefficient: −0.34, 95% CI: −0.61, −0.02), and between 1st trimester O3 exposure and BWGA z-scores among males in the shorter TL group (coefficient: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.06, 1.08). For females, only a negative association in 2nd trimester mixture model was observed within the longer TL group (coefficient: −0.10, 95% CI: −0.21, −0.01). Conclusion: These findings highlight the need to consider the complex interactions among prenatal air pollutant exposures, placental TL, and fetal sex to better elucidate those at greatest risk for adverse birth outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117986
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024


  • Air pollution
  • Birth outcomes
  • Effect modification
  • Infant sex
  • Prenatal
  • Telomere length


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