ARB Research Seminar

This page updated June 19, 2013

Air Pollution and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes in the South Coast Air Basin of California

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

September 08, 2005
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



Classic epidemiologic air pollution studies investigated the effects of criteria pollutants on adult mortality. Studies that evaluate whether air pollution exposures influence pregnancy outcomes and mortality in infants are only recently emerging, even though this may be a particularly susceptible period of human development and growth. The body of evidence from studies examining pregnancy outcomes in mostly urban areas throughout the world is growing rapidly and we will present an overview of the state of knowledge in this relatively new area of air pollution effects research. We will discuss key challenges surrounding this research, including examining acute versus chronic effects, timing of exposures with regard to pregnancy period, and spatial heterogeneity of pollutants. We will present results from our own studies of ambient and traffic-related air pollution and low birth weight (LBW)(<2,500g), preterm birth (<37 weeks gestation), cardiac birth defects, and infant mortality for 1989-2000, a period during which some air pollutant levels in the SoCAB declined. We focused specifically on ambient levels of CO and PM10 and more recently PM2.5. Starting in the mid-1990s, we obtained residential addresses for each subject and geocoded home locations using a Geographic Information System (GIS) and used these locations to assign residences to ambient air monitoring stations and to calculate traffic density around homes to improve exposure assessment. Using the residential address mapping method, we found that distance of residence from monitoring stations influenced the estimated size of the observed effects. We will also discuss our recently completed survey of 2003 births in LA County that allows us to examine methodological issues of confounding, effect measure modification, and exposure misclassification by factors not routinely reported on birth certificates.

Speaker Biography

Beate Ritz, MD, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Public Health and the Department of Neurology UCLA School of Medicine and a member of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, the NIEHS-UCLA-USC Environmental Health Science Center, and co-director of the NIEHS-funded UCLA Center for Gene-Environment Studies of Parkinson's disease. Her primary research interests are the effects of occupational and environmental toxins primarily air pollution, pesticides and ionizing radiation on chronic diseases including neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson's disease), cancers, and reproductive outcomes. In the past decade, she studied the effects of air pollution on adverse birth outcomes using vital statistics records, California Birth Defect Monitoring Program data, and her own NIEHS-funded survey of pregnancy risk factors in women who gave birth during 2003. Recently, as part of the CDC-funded Environmental Health Tracking program she evaluated the impact of air pollution on asthma in children in California employing California Health Interview (CHIS) survey data. She also started to collaborate with the LA FANS (Family and Neighborhood Survey) to assess air pollution exposures and asthma and lung function in LA children living in more than 60 different neighborhoods. Her research involves extensive geographic information system (GIS) modeling of exposures such as traffic related air pollution and the application of hierarchical modeling procedures to complex data.

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