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Approved Research

Appraising Causal Relationship of Air Pollution Exposure in Pregnancy and Low Birth Weight

Principal Investigator: Professor Xia Yankai
Approved Research ID: 73238
Approval date: December 14th 2021

Lay summary

Aims: We aim to assess the causal relationship between gestational exposure of air pollution and low birth weight. Scientific rationale: Air pollution adversely affects health outcomes. Particularly, women are vulnerable to environmental exposure in pregnancy, which is a critical window for maternal and neonatal health. Evidence is accumulating that maternal PM2.5 exposure is related to low birth weight. From the perspective of mechanism, fine particulate matter constituents might transfer across the placental barrier and consequently lead to intrauterine growth restriction. Additionally, the consistent association has been observed in our independent cohort study. We will use data obtained from the UK Biobank to identify causal association between gestational exposure of air pollution and low birth weight via Mendelian randomization (MR). Project duration: The duration of this project will be three years, from 2021 to 2024. Public health impact: Our study could find causal detrimental effects of air pollution on low birth weight, providing critical information and knowledge that can be used by regulatory agencies, decision makers, and others to put programs and policies in place to limit our exposures to air pollution, thereby preventing or reducing the likelihood that a disease or other negative health outcome would occur and improve well-being of women and children.

Scope extension: We aim to investigate the health effects (e.g. cancer, non-cancer illness, respiratory diseases,  metabolic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, allergic diseases, menopause, length of menstrual cycle, spontaneous miscarriages, low birth weight and overall health rating) of air pollution in the United Kingdom.  We will also explore the effect modifications by socio-economic factors and lifestyles.