Reduced fetal growth is associated with perinatal and later morbidity. Prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants is linked to reduced fetal growth at birth, but the impact of concomitant exposure to multiple pollutants is unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine interactions between early pregnancy exposure to cigarette smoke, traffic pollution, and select perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) on birth weight-for-gestational age (BW/GA).
Among 1597 Project Viva mother-infant pairs, we assessed maternal cigarette smoking by questionnaire, traffic pollution at residential address by black carbon land use regression model, and plasma concentration of select PFASs in early pregnancy. We calculated sex-specific BW/GA z-scores, an index of fetal growth, from national reference data. We fit covariate-adjusted multi-pollutant linear regression models and examined interactions between exposures, using a likelihood-ratio test to identify a best-fit model.
Two hundred six (13%) mothers smoked during pregnancy. Mean [standard deviation (SD)] for black carbon was 0.8 (0.3) μg/m, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was 29.1 (16.5) ng/mL, and BW/GA z-score was 0.19 (0.96). In the best-fit model, BW/GA z-score was lower in infants of mothers exposed to greater black carbon [- 0.08 (95% CI: -0.15, - 0.01) per interquartile range (IQR)]. BW/GA z-score (95% CI) was also lower in infants of mothers who smoked [- 0.09 (- 0.23, 0.06)] or were exposed to greater PFOS [- 0.03 (- 0.07, 0.02) per IQR], although confidence intervals crossed the null. There were no interactions between exposures. In secondary analyses, instead of PFOS, we examined perfluorononanoate (PFNA) [mean (SD): 0.7 (0.4) ng/mL], a PFAS more closely linked to lower BW/GA in our cohort. The best-fit multi-pollutant model included positive two-way interactions between PFNA and both black carbon and smoking (p-interactions = 0.03).
Concurrent prenatal exposures to maternal smoking, black carbon, and PFOS are additively associated with lower fetal growth, whereas PFNA may attenuate associations of smoking and black carbon with lower fetal growth. It is important to examine interactions between multiple exposures in relation to health outcomes, as effects may not always be additive and may shed light on biological pathways.