Estimating individual-level exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons throughout the gestational period based on personal, indoor, and outdoor monitoring.

OBJECTIVES: Current understanding on health effects of long-term polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure is limited by lack of data on time-varying nature of the pollutants at an individual level. In a cohort of pregnant women in Krakow, Poland, we examined the contribution of temporal, spatial, and behavioral factors to prenatal exposure to airborne PAHs within each trimester and developed a predictive model of PAH exposure over the entire gestational period.

METHODS: We monitored nonsmoking pregnant women (n = 341) for their personal exposure to pyrene and eight carcinogenic PAHs-benz[a]anthracene, chrysene/isochrysene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, benzo[a]pyrene [B(a)P], indeno[1,2,3-c,d]pyrene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, and benzo[g,h,i]perylene-during their second trimester for a consecutive 48-hr period. In a subset (n = 78), we monitored indoor and outdoor levels simultaneously with the personal monitoring during the second trimester with an identical monitor. The subset of women was also monitored for personal exposure for a 48-hr period during each trimester. We repeatedly administered a questionnaire on health history, lifestyle, and home environment.

RESULTS: The observed personal, indoor, and outdoor B(a)P levels we observed in Krakow far exceed the recommended Swedish guideline value for B(a)P of 0.1 ng/m(3). Based on simultaneously monitored levels, the outdoor PAH level alone accounts for 93% of total variability in personal exposure during the heating season. Living near the Krakow bus depot, a crossroad, and the city center and time spent outdoors or commuting were not associated with higher personal exposure. During the nonheating season only, a 1-hr increase in environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure was associated with a 10-16% increase in personal exposure to the nine measured PAHs. A 1 degrees C decrease in ambient temperature was associated with a 3-5% increase in exposure to benz[a]anthracene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, and dibenz[a,h]anthracene, after accounting for the outdoor concentration. A random effects model demonstrated that mean personal exposure at a given gestational period depends on the season, residence location, and ETS.

CONCLUSION: Considering that most women reported spending < 3 hr/day outdoors, most women in the study were exposed to outdoor-originating PAHs within the indoor setting. Cross-sectional, longitudinal monitoring supplemented with questionnaire data allowed development of a gestation-length model of individual-level exposure with high precision and validity. These results are generalizable to other nonsmoking pregnant women in similar exposure settings and support reduction of exposure to protect the developing fetus.

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