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Environmental exposure assessment: modelling air pollution concentrations 

Environmental exposure assessment: modelling air pollution concentrations
Environmental exposure assessment: modelling air pollution concentrations

John Gulliver

and Kees de Hoogh

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date: 18 May 2022

Exposure to environmental pollutants may have important immediate and long-term health impacts. Environmental epidemiology aims to quantify the health effects of such exposures. This chapter uses air pollution as an example, to illustrate modern approaches to modelling exposures for use in epidemiological studies. The ideal approach is to use information on continuous life-time air pollution exposures at the individual level that are suitably resolved in space and time for studying specific diseases. Capturing representative information on exposures, particularly for active population sub-groups, for even relatively short periods of life is challenging because air pollution exposures are a function of the micro-environments that people visits during their daily routines, are variable over hours, days and weeks due to routine work and leisure patterns, and change over months and years due to activities associated with different stages of childhood and adulthood. Large cities generally have continuous measurement of air pollutants at one or more dedicated fixed-sites, which provide the basis both for monitoring changes in air quality to provide information to the public and as a policy tool for assessing emissions interventions and controls. Using the nearest air pollution monitor may be a poor marker for exposure, especially in urban areas that are characterised by complex air pollution surfaces due to dense transport networks, buildings, industrial sources and terrain. Portable air pollution sensors, if sufficiently small and lightweight, offer an opportunity to measure more ‘personalised’ exposures but it is not presently feasible to employ these in large samples. Two techniques have been developed which are now widely used to undertake air pollution exposure assessment: dispersion modelling and land use regression (LUR) modelling (also known as regression mapping). This chapter describes how to undertake the various steps in LUR modelling from initial data collection through to model evaluation; the goal is to provide practical guidelines for undertaking LUR modelling. We address the issue of transferring LUR models in space and time between different areas and extrapolating models to different time periods both within areas where models have been developed and to other areas without locally developed models.

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