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Early-life exposure to ambient fine particulate air pollution and infant mortality: pooled evidence from 43 low- and middle-income countries
Authors: Goyal N, Karra M, and Canning D
Source: International Journal of Epidemiology, 48(4): 1125-1141; DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyz090
Topic(s): Childhood mortality
Infant mortality
Maternal health
Neonatal mortality
Pregnancy outcomes
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: AUG 2019
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Many low- and middle-income countries are experiencing high and increasing exposure to ambient fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5). The effect of PM2.5 on infant and child mortality is usually modelled using concentration response curves extrapolated from studies conducted in settings with low ambient air pollution, which may not capture its full effect. METHODS: We pool data on more than half a million births from 69 nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys that were conducted in 43 low- and middle-income countries between 1998 and 2014, and we calculate early-life exposure (exposure in utero and post partum) to ambient PM2.5 using high-resolution calibrated satellite data matched to the child's place of residence. We estimate the association between the log of early-life PM2.5 exposure, both overall and separated by type, and the odds of neonatal and infant mortality, adjusting for child-level, parent-level and household-level characteristics. RESULTS: We find little evidence that early-life exposure to overall PM2.5 is associated with higher odds of mortality relative to low exposure to PM2.5. However, about half of PM2.5 is naturally occurring dust and sea-salt whereas half is from other sources, comprising mainly carbon-based compounds, which are mostly due to human activity. We find a very strong association between exposure to carbonaceous PM2.5 and infant mortality, particularly neonatal mortality, i.e. mortality in the first 28?days after birth. We estimate that, at the mean level of exposure in the sample to carbonaceous PM2.5-10.9?µg/m3-the odds of neonatal mortality are over 50% higher than in the absence of pollution. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the current World Health Organization guideline of limiting the overall ambient PM2.5 level to less than 10?µg/m³ should be augmented with a lower limit for harmful carbonaceous PM2.5. © The Author(s) 2019; all rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association. KEYWORDS: Ambient air pollution; Demographic and Health Survey (DHS); Geographic Information System (GIS); child mortality; fine particulate matter; infant mortality; neonatal mortality; pregnancy outcome