Inner-city, minority populations are high-risk groups for adverse birth outcomes and also are more likely to be exposed to environmental contaminants, including environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and pesticides. In a sample of 263 nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women, we evaluated the effects on birth outcomes of prenatal exposure to airborne PAHs monitored during pregnancy by personal air sampling, along with ETS estimated by plasma cotinine, and an organophosphate pesticide (OP) estimated by plasma chlorpyrifos (CPF). Plasma CPF was used as a covariate because it was the most often detected in plasma and was highly correlated with other pesticides frequently detected in plasma. Among African Americans, high prenatal exposure to PAHs was associated with lower birth weight (p= 0.003) and smaller head circumference (p = 0.01) after adjusting for potential confounders. CPF was associated with decreased birth weight and birth length overall (p = 0.01 and p = 0.003, respectively) and with lower birth weight among African American (p = 0.04) and reduced birth length in Dominicans (p < 0.001), and was therefore included as a covariate in the model with PAH. After controlling for CPF, relationships between PAHs and birth outcomes were essentially unchanged. In this analysis, PAHs and CPF appear to be significant independent determinants of birth outcomes. Further analyses of pesticides will be carried out. Possible explanations of the failure to find a significant effect of PAHs in the Hispanic subsample are discussed. This study provides evidence that environmental pollutants at levels currently encountered in New York City adversely affect fetal development.
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