The use of ultrasound measurements in environmental epidemiological studies of air pollution and fetal growth

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Purpose of review

Recently, several international research groups have suggested that studies about environmental contaminants and adverse pregnancy outcomes should be designed to elucidate potential underlying biological mechanisms. The purpose of this review is to examine the epidemiological studies addressing maternal exposure to air pollutants and fetal growth during gestation as assessed by ultrasound measurements.

Recent findings

The six studies published to date found that exposure to certain ambient air pollutants during pregnancy is negatively associated with the growth rates and average attained size of fetal parameters belonging to the growth profile. Fetal parameters may respond to maternal air pollution exposures uniquely, and this response may vary by pollutant and timing of gestational exposure. Current literature suggests that mean changes in head circumference, abdominal circumference, femur length, and biparietal diameter are negatively associated with early-pregnancy exposures to ambient and vehicle-related air pollution.


The use of more longitudinal studies, employing ultrasound measures to assess fetal outcomes, may assist with the better understanding of mechanisms responsible for air pollution-related pregnancy outcomes.

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