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Environmental Health Perspectives

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Preterm infants, Particles -- Environmental aspects -- United States, Public health


Background: Particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) has been consistently associated with preterm birth (PTB) to varying degrees, but roles of PM2.5 species have been less studied.

Objective: We estimated risk differences (RD) of PTB (reported per 106 pregnancies) associated with change in ambient concentrations of elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC), nitrates (NO3), and sulfates (SO4).

Methods: From live birth certificates from three states, we constructed a cohort of singleton pregnancies at or beyond 20 weeks of gestation from 2000 through 2005 (n = 1,771,225; 8% PTB). We estimated mean species exposures for each week of gestation from monitor-corrected Community Multi-Scale Air Quality modeling data. RDs and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for four PTB categories were estimated for each exposure using linear regression, adjusted for maternal race/ethnicity, marital status, education, age, smoking, maximum temperature, ozone, and season of conception. We also adjusted for other species in multi-species models.

Results: RDs varied by exposure window and outcome period. EC was positively associated with PTB after 27 and before 35 weeks of gestation. For example, for a 0.25-μg/m3 increase in EC exposure during gestational week 9, RD = 96 (95% CI: –20, 213) and RD = 145 (95% CI: –50, 341) for PTB during weeks 28–31 and 32–34, respectively. Associations with OCs were null or negative. RDs for NO3 were elevated with exposure in early weeks of gestation, and null in later weeks. RDs for SO4 exposure were positively associated with PTB, though magnitude varied across gestational weeks. We observed effect measure modification for associations between EC and PTB by race/ethnicity and smoking status.

Conclusion: EC and SO4 may contribute to associations between PM2.5 and PTB. Associations varied according to the timing of exposure and the timing of PTB.


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