Prenatal exposure to ambient air multi-pollutants significantly impairs intrauterine fetal development trajectory

Xiaowen Shao, Haoxiang Cheng, Jonathan Zhou, Jushan Zhang, Yujie Zhu, Chun Yang, Antonio Di Narzo, Jing Yu, Yuan Shen, Yuanyuan Li, Shunqing Xu, Zhongyang Zhang, Jia Chen, Jiajing Cheng, Ke Hao

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20 Scopus citations


Background: Impaired in utero fetal growth trajectory may have long term health consequences of the newborns and increase risk of adulthood metabolic diseases. Prenatal exposure to air pollution has been linked to fetal development restriction; however, the impact of exposure to ambient air pollutants on the entire course of intrauterine fetal development has not been comprehensively investigated. Methods: During 2015–2018, two cohorts of mother-infant dyads (N = 678 and 227) were recruited in Shanghai China, from which three categories of data were systematically collected: (1) daily exposure to six air pollutants during pregnancy, (2) fetal biometry in the 2nd (gestational week 24, [GW24]) and 3rd trimester (GW36), and (3) neonatal outcomes at birth. We investigated the impact of prenatal exposure to air pollutant mixture on the trajectory of fetal development during the course of gestation, adjusting for a broad set of potential confounds. Results: Prenatal exposure to PM2.5, PM10, SO2 and O3 significantly reduced fetal biometry at GW24, where SO2 had the most potent effect. For every 10 μg/m3 increment increase of daily SO2 exposure during the 1st trimester shortened femur length by 2.20 mm (p = 6.7E-21) translating to 5.3% reduction from the average of the study cohort. Prenatal air pollution exposure also decreased fetal biometry at GW36 with attenuated effect size. Comparing to the lowest exposed quartile, fetus in the highest exposed quartile had 6.3% (p = 3.5E-5) and 2.1% (p = 2.4E-3) lower estimated intrauterine weight in GW24 and GW36, respectively; however, no difference in birth weight was observed, indicating a rapid catch-up growth in the 3rd trimester. Conclusions: To our knowledge, for the first time, we demonstrated the impact of prenatal exposure to ambient air pollutants on the course of intrauterine fetal development. The altered growth trajectory and rapid catch-up growth in associated with high prenatal exposure may lead to long-term predisposition for adulthood metabolic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110726
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2020


  • Birth outcome
  • Fetal biometry
  • Fetal development trajectory
  • Prenatal ambient air pollutant exposure


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