Prenatal Ambient Ultrafine Particle Exposure and Childhood Asthma in the Northeastern United States

Rosalind J Wright, Hsiao-Hsien Leon Hsu, Yueh-Hsiu Mathilda Chiu, Brent A Coull, Matthew C Simon, Neelakshi Hudda, Joel Schwartz, Itai Kloog, John L Durant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


RATIONALE: Ambient ultrafine particles (UFPs; <0.1 µm) may exert greater toxicity, compared to other pollution components, due to enhanced oxidative capacity and ability to translocate systemically. Studies examining associations between prenatal UFP exposure and childhood asthma remain sparse.

OBJECTIVES: We used daily UFP exposure estimates to identify susceptible windows of prenatal UFP exposure with asthma in children, accounting for sex-specific effects.

METHODS: Analyses included 376 mother-child dyads followed since pregnancy. Daily UFP exposure during pregnancy was estimated using a spatiotemporally-resolved particle number concentration prediction model. Bayesian distributed lag interaction models (BDLIMs) were used to identify sensitive windows for UFP exposure, and examine whether effect estimates varied by sex. Incident asthma was determined at first report of asthma (3.6+3.2 years). Covariates included maternal age, education, race, and obesity, child sex, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and temperature averaged over gestation, and postnatal UFP exposure.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Women were 37.8% Black and 43.9% Hispanic with 52.9% reporting <high school education; 18.4% of children developed asthma. The cumulative odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for incident asthma, per doubling of UFP exposure level across pregnancy was 4.28 (1.41-15.7) impacting males and females similarly. BDLIMs indicated sex differences in the sensitive windows with the highest risk of asthma in females exposed to higher UFPs during late pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: Prenatal UFP exposure was associated with asthma development in children, independent of correlated ambient NO2 and temperature. Findings will benefit future research and policy-makers considering appropriate regulations that reduce the adverse effects of UFP on child respiratory health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)788-796
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number7
Early online date21 May 2021
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Child asthma
  • Prenatal
  • Sensitive windows
  • Sex-specific
  • Ultrafine particles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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