Newswise — Childhood obesity is a growing global public health concern, significantly increasing the risk of various health issues later in life. Factors contributing to obesity include genetic, socioeconomic, behavioral, and environmental influences. Air pollution, particularly ozone exposure, has recently been identified as a potential risk factor for obesity and metabolic disorders. Based on these challenges, there is a need to conduct in-depth research on the effects of prenatal air pollution exposure on child development to better understand and mitigate these risks.

A recent study (DOI: 10.1016/j.eehl.2024.04.008) conducted by researchers from Fudan University and Zhengzhou University, published in Eco-Environment & Health, examined the impact of prenatal ozone exposure on childhood growth and obesity. The study assessed ozone exposure during pregnancy using a high-resolution random forest model based on the Shanghai Maternal-Child Pairs Cohort. Online on May 8, 2024, the study provides critical insights into how increased prenatal ozone levels are associated with higher risks of accelerated growth and obesity in early childhood.

The study involved 4,909 maternal-child pairs from the Shanghai Maternal-Child Pairs Cohort. Researchers used a high-resolution random forest model to estimate prenatal ozone exposure based on the home addresses of pregnant women. Physical growth parameters of the children were measured at multiple time points during the first two years of life. The study found that each 10 μg/m³ increase in prenatal ozone concentration was associated with significant increases in BMI-for-age Z score (BAZ), weight-for-age Z score (WAZ), and weight-for-length Z score (WLZ). Specifically, this exposure was linked to a 1.208-fold and 1.209-fold increase in the elevated-increasing group for BAZ and WLZ trajectories, respectively. Moreover, prenatal ozone exposure was associated with a 1.355-fold increase in the risk of overweight and obesity (OAO) in children for the first two years of life. The findings suggest that prenatal ozone exposure can lead to accelerated BMI gain or decelerated body length gain in early childhood, increasing the risk of obesity.

Dr. Yunhui Zhang from School of Public Health at Fudan University, a corresponding author of the study, stated, "Our research highlights the significant impact of prenatal ozone exposure on early childhood growth and obesity. These findings underscore the importance of addressing air quality issues to protect the health and development of future generations."

The study's findings emphasize the need for stringent air quality regulations to minimize prenatal exposure to ozone. Policymakers and public health officials should prioritize strategies to reduce air pollution, particularly in urban areas with high ozone levels. Pregnant women should be made aware of the potential risks of ozone exposure and take preventive measures to protect their health and their children's development. Further research is needed to explore the underlying mechanisms and long-term health impacts of prenatal ozone exposure on children's growth and obesity.





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Funding information

This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant 2022YFC2705004), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 82273585) and Fudan University&Minhang Health Joint Venture Cooperation Project (2022FM11).

About Eco-Environment & Health (EEH)

Eco-Environment & Health (EEH) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal designed for publications on the frontiers of the ecology, environment and health as well as their related disciplines. EEH focuses on the concept of "One Health" to promote green and sustainable development, dealing with the interactions among ecology, environment and health, and the underlying mechanisms and interventions. Our mission is to be one of the most important flagship journals in the field of environmental health.

Journal Link: Eco-Environment & Health