No association between in utero exposure to emissions from a coalmine fire and post-natal lung function

Emily J. Hemstock, Rachel E. Foong, Graham L. Hall, Amanda J. Wheeler, Shyamali C. Dharmage, Marita Dalton, Grant J. Williamson, Caroline Gao, Michael J. Abramson, Fay H. Johnston, Graeme R. Zosky

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Background and objective: Studies linking early life exposure to air pollution and subsequent impaired lung health have focused on chronic, low-level exposures in urban settings. We aimed to determine whether in utero exposure to an acute, high-intensity air pollution episode impaired lung function 7-years later. Method: We conducted a prospective cohort study of children who lived in the vicinity of a coalmine fire. Respiratory function was measured using the forced oscillation technique (FOT). Z-scores for resistance at 5 Hz (R5), reactance at 5 Hz (X5) and area under the reactance curve (AX) were calculated. Two sets of analyses were conducted to address two separate questions: (1) whether mine fire exposure (a binary indicator; conceived after the mine fire vs in utero exposed) was associated with the respiratory Z-scores; (2) whether there was any dose–response relationship between fire-related PM2.5 exposure and respiratory outcomes among those exposed. Results: Acceptable lung function measurements were obtained from 79 children; 25 unexposed and 54 exposed in utero. Median (interquartile range) for daily average and peak PM2.5 for the exposed children were 4.2 (2.6 – 14.2) and 88 (52—225) µg/m3 respectively. There were no detectable differences in Z-scores between unexposed and exposed children. There were no associations between respiratory Z-scores and in utero exposure to PM2.5 (daily average or peak). Conclusion: There was no detectable effect of in utero exposure to PM2.5 from a local coalmine fire on post-natal lung function 7-years later. However, statistical power was limited.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023


  • Early life
  • In utero exposure
  • Long-term effects
  • Particulate matter
  • Respiratory function

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