Time-to-Event Analysis of Fine Particle Air Pollution and Preterm Birth: Results from North Carolina, 2001–2005


Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy has been suggested to be a risk factor for preterm birth; however, epidemiologic evidence remains mixed and limited. The authors examined the association between ambient levels of particulate matter <2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM(2.5)) and the risk of preterm birth in North Carolina during the period 2001-2005. They estimated the risks of cumulative and lagged average exposures to PM(2.5) during pregnancy via a 2-stage discrete-time survival model. The authors also considered exposure metrics derived from 1) ambient concentrations measured by the Air Quality System (AQS) monitoring network and 2) concentrations predicted by statistically fusing AQS data with process-based numerical model output (the Statistically Fused Air and Deposition Surfaces (FSD) database). Using the AQS measurements, an interquartile-range (1.73 μg/m(3)) increase in cumulative PM(2.5) exposure was associated with a 6.8% (95% posterior interval: 0.5, 13.6) increase in the risk of preterm birth. Using the FSD-predicted levels and accounting for prediction error, the authors also found significant adverse associations between trimester 1, trimester 2, and cumulative PM(2.5) exposure and preterm birth. These findings suggest that exposure to ambient PM(2.5) during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of preterm birth, even in a region characterized by relatively good air quality.

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