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Increased traffic exposure and negative birth outcomes: a prospective cohort in Australia

Adrian G Barnett1*, Kathryn Plonka23, W Kim Seow2, Lee-Ann Wilson1 and Craig Hansen2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health & Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, Australia

2 The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

3 Queensland Health Metro South Health Service District, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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Environmental Health 2011, 10:26  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-26

Published: 1 April 2011



Pregnant women exposed to traffic pollution have an increased risk of negative birth outcomes. We aimed to investigate the size of this risk using a prospective cohort of 970 mothers and newborns in Logan, Queensland.


We examined two measures of traffic: distance to nearest road and number of roads around the home. To examine the effect of distance we used the number of roads around the home in radii from 50 to 500 metres. We examined three road types: freeways, highways and main roads.


There were no associations with distance to road. A greater number of freeways and main roads around the home were associated with a shorter gestation time. There were no negative impacts on birth weight, birth length or head circumference after adjusting for gestation. The negative effects on gestation were largely due to main roads within 400 metres of the home. For every 10 extra main roads within 400 metres of the home, gestation time was reduced by 1.1% (95% CI: -1.7, -0.5; p-value = 0.001).


Our results add weight to the association between exposure to traffic and reduced gestation time. This effect may be due to the chemical toxins in traffic pollutants, or because of disturbed sleep due to traffic noise.