Exposure to ambient fine particulate air pollution in utero as a risk factor for child stunting in Bangladesh

Nihit Goyal*, David Canning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Pregnant mothers in Bangladesh are exposed to very high and worsening levels of ambient air pollution. Maternal exposure to fine particulate matter has been associated with low birth weight at much lower levels of exposure, leading us to suspect the potentially large effects of air pollution on stunting in children in Bangladesh. We estimate the relationship between exposure to air pollution in utero and child stunting by pooling outcome data from four waves of the nationally representative Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey conducted between 2004 and 2014, and calculating children’s exposure to ambient fine particulate matter in utero using high resolution satellite data. We find significant increases in the relative risk of child stunting, wasting, and underweight with higher levels of in utero exposure to air pollution, after controlling for other factors that have been found to contribute to child anthropometric failure. We estimate the relative risk of stunting in the second, third, and fourth quartiles of exposure as 1.074 (95% confidence interval: 1.014-1.138), 1.150 (95% confidence interval: 1.069-1.237, and 1.132 (95% confidence interval: 1.031-1.243), respectively. Over half of all children in Bangladesh in our sample were exposed to an annual ambient fine particulate matter level in excess of 46 μg/m3, these children had a relative risk of stunting over 1.13 times that of children in the lowest quartile of exposure. Reducing air pollution in Bangladesh could significantly contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal of reducing child stunting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambient air pollution
  • Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (BDHS)
  • Child anthropometric failure
  • Fine particulate matter (PM)
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Small birth size
  • Stunting
  • Underweight
  • Wasting


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