Time-varying cycle average and daily variation in ambient air pollution and fecundability.
STUDY QUESTION: Does ambient air pollution affect fecundability?
SUMMARY ANSWER: While cycle-average air pollution exposure was not associated with fecundability, we observed some associations for acute exposure around ovulation and implantation with fecundability.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Ambient air pollution exposure has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes and decrements in semen quality.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: The LIFE study (2005-2009), a prospective time-to-pregnancy study, enrolled 501 couples who were followed for up to one year of attempting pregnancy.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Average air pollutant exposure was assessed for the menstrual cycle before and during the proliferative phase of each observed cycle (n = 500 couples; n = 2360 cycles) and daily acute exposure was assessed for sensitive windows of each observed cycle (n = 440 couples; n = 1897 cycles). Discrete-time survival analysis modeled the association between fecundability and an interquartile range increase in each pollutant, adjusting for co-pollutants, site, age, race/ethnicity, parity, body mass index, smoking, income and education.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Cycle-average air pollutant exposure was not associated with fecundability. In acute models, fecundability was diminished with exposure to ozone the day before ovulation and nitrogen oxides 8 days post ovulation (fecundability odds ratio [FOR] 0.83, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.72, 0.96 and FOR 0.84, 95% CI: 0.71, 0.99, respectively). However, particulate matter ≤10 microns 6 days post ovulation was associated with greater fecundability (FOR 1.25, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.54).
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Although our study was unlikely to be biased due to confounding, misclassification of air pollution exposure and the moderate study size may have limited our ability to detect an association between ambient air pollution and fecundability.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: While no associations were observed for cycle-average ambient air pollution exposure, consistent with past research in the United States, exposure during critical windows of hormonal variability was associated with prospectively measured couple fecundability, warranting further investigation.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment study contract nos. #N01-HD-3-3355, NO1-HD-#-3356, N01-HD-3-3358 and the Air Quality and Reproductive Health Study Contract No. HHSN275200800002I, Task Order No. HHSN27500008). We declare no conflict of interest.