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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Maternal exposure to air pollution before and during pregnancy related to changes in newborn's cord blood lymphocyte subpopulations. The EDEN study cohort

Nour Baïz12*, Rémy Slama34, Marie-Christine Béné5, Marie-Aline Charles6, Marie-Nathalie Kolopp-Sarda7, Antoine Magnan8, Olivier Thiebaugeorges9, Gilbert Faure5 and Isabella Annesi-Maesano12

Author Affiliations

1 Inserm, Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, Epidemiology of Allergic and Respiratory (EPAR) Department, UMR-S707, Paris, France

2 Faculté de Médecine de Saint-Antoine, UPMC Univ6, Paris, France

3 Inserm, U823, Team "Environmental Epidemiology applied to Reproduction and Respiratory Health", Institut Albert Bonniot, Grenoble, France

4 Université J. Fourier Grenoble, Grenoble, France

5 Laboratoire d'Immunologie, CHU de Brabois & Nancy Université, Nancy, France

6 Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, UMR 780, Villejuif, France

7 Institut national de la santé et de la recherché médicale, U684, Vandoeuvre les Nancy, France

8 Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, UMR 915, Institut du Thorax, IRT-UN, Nantes, France

9 Service de Gynécologie-Obstétrique, Maternité de Nancy, Nancy, France

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:87  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-87

Published: 2 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Toxicants can cross the placenta and expose the developing fetus to chemical contamination leading to possible adverse health effects, by potentially inducing alterations in immune competence. Our aim was to investigate the impacts of maternal exposure to air pollution before and during pregnancy on newborn's immune system.

Methods

Exposure to background particulate matter less than 10 μm in diameter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was assessed in 370 women three months before and during pregnancy using monitoring stations. Personal exposure to four volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was measured in a subsample of 56 non-smoking women with a diffusive air sampler during the second trimester of pregnancy. Cord blood was analyzed at birth by multi-parameter flow cytometry to determine lymphocyte subsets.

Results

Among other immunophenotypic changes in cord blood, decreases in the CD4+CD25+ T-cell percentage of 0.82% (p = 0.01), 0.71% (p = 0.04), 0.88% (p = 0.02), and 0.59% (p = 0.04) for a 10 μg/m3 increase in PM10 levels three months before and during the first, second and third trimester of pregnancy, respectively, were observed after adjusting for confounders. A similar decrease in CD4+CD25+ T-cell percentage was observed in association with personal exposure to benzene. A similar trend was observed between NO2 exposure and CD4+CD25+ T-cell percentage; however the association was stronger between NO2 exposure and an increased percentage of CD8+ T-cells.

Conclusions

These data suggest that maternal exposure to air pollution before and during pregnancy may alter the immune competence in offspring thus increasing the child's risk of developing health conditions later in life, including asthma and allergies.