Objectives: Preterm births (PTBs) represent significant health risks, and several studies have found associations between high outdoor temperatures and PTB. We estimated both the total and natural direct effects (independent of particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide air pollutants) of the prior 2-day mean apparent temperature (AT) on PTB. We evaluated effect modification by maternal age, race, education, smoking status and prenatal care.Design and setting We obtained birth records and meteorological data for the Detroit, Michigan, USA area, for the warm months (May to September), 1991 to 2001. We used a time series Poisson regression with splines of AT, wind speed, solar radiation and citywide average precipitation to estimate total effects. To accommodate multiple mediators and exposure-mediator interactions, AT inverse odds weights, predicted by meteorological and air pollutant covariates, were added in a subsequent model to estimate direct effects.
Results: At 24.9°C relative to 18.6°C, 10.6% (95% CI: 3.8% to 17.2%) of PTBs were attributable to the total effects of AT, and 10.4% (95% CI: 2.2% to 17.5%) to direct effects. Relative excess risks of interaction indicated that the risk of PTB with increasing temperature above 18.6°C was significantly lower among black mothers and higher among mothers less than 19, older than 30, with late or no prenatal care and who smoked.
Conclusion: This additional evidence of a direct association between high temperature and PTB may motivate public health interventions to reduce extreme heat exposures among pregnant women, particularly among those who may have enhanced vulnerability.