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BACKGROUND: Determining the longer-term health effects of air pollution has been difficult owing to the multitude of potential confounding variables in the relationship between air pollution and health. Air pollution in many areas of South Asia is seasonal, with large spikes in particulate matter (PM) concentration occurring in the winter months. This study exploits this seasonal variation in PM concentration through a natural experiment. OBJECTIVE: This project aims to determine the causal effect of PM exposure during pregnancy on pregnancy and child health outcomes. METHODS: We will use an instrumental variable (IV) design whereby the estimated month of conception is our instrument for exposure to PM with a diameter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) during pregnancy. We will assess the plausibility of our assumption that timing of conception is exogenous with regard to our outcomes of interest and will adjust for date of monsoon onset to control for confounding variables related to harvest timing. Our outcomes are 1) birth weight, 2) pregnancy termination resulting in miscarriage, abortion, or still birth, 3) neonatal death, 4) infant death, and 5) child death. We will use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted in relevant regions of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, along with monthly gridded data on PM2.5 concentration (0.1°×0.1° spatial resolution), precipitation data (0.5°×0.5° resolution), temperature data (0.5°×0.5°), and agricultural land use data (0.1°×0.1° resolution). RESULTS: Data access to relevant DHSs was granted on June 6, 2021 for India, Nepal, Bangladesh, August 24, 2021 for Pakistan, and June 19 2022 for the latest DHS from India. CONCLUSIONS: If the assumptions for a causal interpretation of our instrumental variable analysis are met, this analysis will provide important causal evidence on the maternal and child health effects of PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy. This evidence is important to inform personal behavior and interventions, such as the adoption of indoor air filtration during pregnancy as well as environmental and health policy. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/35249.

Original publication




Journal article


JMIR Res Protoc

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Bangladesh, India, Indo-Gangetic Plain, Nepal, PM2.5, Pakistan, air pollution, birth weight, child and maternal health, fine particulate matter, still birth