Air pollution and children's health-a review of adverse effects associated with prenatal exposure from fine to ultrafine particulate matter. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Particulate matter (PM), a major component of ambient air pollution, accounts for a substantial burden of diseases and fatality worldwide. Maternal exposure to PM during pregnancy is particularly harmful to children's health since this is a phase of rapid human growth and development. METHOD: In this review, we synthesize the scientific evidence on adverse health outcomes in children following prenatal exposure to the smallest toxic components, fine (PM2.5) and ultrafine (PM0.1) PM. We highlight the established and emerging findings from epidemiologic studies and experimental models. RESULTS: Maternal exposure to fine and ultrafine PM directly and indirectly yields numerous adverse birth outcomes and impacts on children's respiratory systems, immune status, brain development, and cardiometabolic health. The biological mechanisms underlying adverse effects include direct placental translocation of ultrafine particles, placental and systemic maternal oxidative stress and inflammation elicited by both fine and ultrafine PM, epigenetic changes, and potential endocrine effects that influence long-term health. CONCLUSION: Policies to reduce maternal exposure and health consequences in children should be a high priority. PM2.5 levels are regulated, yet it is recognized that minority and low socioeconomic status groups experience disproportionate exposures. Moreover, PM0.1 levels are not routinely measured or currently regulated. Consequently, preventive strategies that inform neighborhood/regional planning and clinical/nutritional recommendations are needed to mitigate maternal exposure and ultimately protect children's health.

published proceedings

  • Environ Health Prev Med

altmetric score

  • 66.11

author list (cited authors)

  • Johnson, N. M., Hoffmann, A. R., Behlen, J. C., Lau, C., Pendleton, D., Harvey, N., ... Zhang, R.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Johnson, Natalie M||Hoffmann, Aline Rodrigues||Behlen, Jonathan C||Lau, Carmen||Pendleton, Drew||Harvey, Navada||Shore, Ross||Li, Yixin||Chen, Jingshu||Tian, Yanan||Zhang, Renyi

publication date

  • January 2021