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Your Environment. Your Health.

Air Pollution Exposure in Pregnancy and Maternal Bone Strength

Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D., and Robert Wright, M.D.
Columbia University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
P30ES009089, P30ES023515, R24ES028522, R00ES027508, R00ES023450, R01ES021357, R01ES013744, R01ES014930

NIEHS grantees identified a link between air pollution exposure during pregnancy and diminished maternal bone strength. This study is the first to examine the association between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and bone strength in pregnant women. Bone strength is known to decline during pregnancy and recover after birth. Pollution exposures may worsen this loss, potentially increasing risk of fracture.

The study included 930 pregnant women enrolled in a long-term study in Mexico City. Using a spatiotemporal model based on participant addresses, the researchers estimated daily ambient PM2.5 exposure from 60 days before conception to six months postpartum. They used bone ultrasound to measure bone strength in mid- and late pregnancy and up to six months postpartum.

High ambient PM2.5 exposure was associated with lower bone strength two to three months after exposure. For example, PM2.5 exposure in early pregnancy was associated with diminished bone strength in the second and third trimesters. This relationship weakened over time, with bone strength loss becoming less pronounced in the postpartum period. The researchers observed similar bone loss patterns for PM2.5 exposures in late pregnancy and early postpartum.

According to the authors, technologies and policies aimed at reducing air pollution could improve public health by reducing bone fracture risk.

Citation: Wu H, Kioumourtzoglou M-A, Just AC, Kloog I, Sanders A, Svensson K, McRae N, Tamayo-Ortiz M, Solano-González M, Wright, RO, Téllez-Rojo MM, Baccarelli, AA. 2020. Association of ambient PM2.5 exposure with maternal bone strength in pregnant women from Mexico City: a longitudinal cohort study. Lancet Planet Health 4(11):e530-e537.

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