Early-life air pollution and green space exposures as determinants of stunting among children under age five in Sub-Saharan Africa

Prince M. Amegbor, Clive E. Sabel, Laust H. Mortensen, Amar J. Mehta, Mark W. Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Childhood malnutrition is a major public health issue in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and 61.4 million children under the age of five years in the region are stunted. Although insight from existing studies suggests plausible pathways between ambient air pollution exposure and stunting, there are limited studies on the effect of different ambient air pollutants on stunting among children. Objective: Explore the effect of early-life environmental exposures on stunting among children under the age of five years. Methods: In this study, we used pooled health and population data from 33 countries in SSA between 2006 and 2019 and environmental data from the Atmospheric Composition Analysis Group and NASA’s GIOVANNI platform. We estimated the association between early-life environmental exposures and stunting in three exposure periods – in-utero (during pregnancy), post-utero (after pregnancy to current age) and cumulative (from pregnancy to current age), using Bayesian hierarchical modelling. We also visualise the likelihood of stunting among children based on their region of residence using Bayesian hierarchical modelling. Results: The findings show that 33.6% of sampled children were stunted. In-utero PM2.5 was associated with a higher likelihood of stunting (OR = 1.038, CrI = 1.002–1.075). Early-life exposures to nitrogen dioxide and sulphate were robustly associated with stunting among children. The findings also show spatial variation in a high and low likelihood of stunting based on a region of residence. Impact Statement: This study explores the effect of early-life environmental exposures on child growth or stunting among sub-Saharan African children. The study focuses on three exposure windows – pregnancy, after birth and cumulative exposure during pregnancy and after birth. The study also employs spatial analysis to assess the spatial burden of stunted growth in relation to environmental exposures and socioeconomic factors. The findings suggest major air pollutants are associated with stunted growth among children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Air pollution
  • Bayesian models
  • Demographic and Health Survey (DHS)
  • Malnutrition
  • Risk exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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