In utero exposure to particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) has been linked to child lung function. Overlapping evidence suggests that child sex and exposure timing may modify effects and associations may be mediated through glutathione S-transferase P1 (GSTP1) methylation.
We prospectively examined associations among prenatal PM2.5 exposure and child lung function and GSTP1 methylation in an urban pregnancy cohort study. We employed a validated satellite-based spatiotemporally resolved prediction model to estimate daily prenatal PM2.5 exposure over gestation. We used Baysian distributed lag interaction models (BDLIMs) to identify sensitive windows for prenatal PM2.5 exposure on child lung function and nasal epithelia GSTP1 methylation at age 7 years, and to examine effect modification by child sex.
BDLIMs identified a sensitive window for prenatal PM2.5 exposure at 35–40 weeks gestation [cumulative effect estimate (CEE) = − 0.10, 95%CI = − 0.19 to − 0.01, per μg/m3 increase in PM2.5] and at 36–40 weeks (CEE = − 0.12, 95%CI = − 0.20 to − 0.01) on FEV1 and FVC, respectively, in boys. BDLIMs also identified a sensitive window of exposure at 37–40 weeks gestation between higher prenatal PM2.5 exposure and increased GSTP1 percent methylation. The association between higher GSTP1 percent methylation and decreased FEV1 was borderline significant in the sample as a whole (β = − 0.37, SE = 0.20, p = 0.06) and in boys in stratified analyses (β = − 0.56, SE = 0.29, p = 0.05).
Prenatal PM2.5 exposure in late pregnancy was associated with impaired early childhood lung function and hypermethylation of GSTPI in DNA isolated from nasal epithelial cells. There was a trend towards higher GSTP1 percent methylation being associated with reduced FEV1. All findings were most evident among boys.