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J Environ Monit. 2009 Mar;11(3):475-90. doi: 10.1039/b813889c. Epub 2009 Feb 13.

Air pollution exposure assessment methods utilized in epidemiological studies.

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  • 1Central South University, School of Info-Physics and Geomatics Engineering, Changsha, Hunan 410086, China.


The assessment of personal exposure to air pollution is a critical component of epidemiological studies associating air pollution and health effects. This paper critically reviewed 157 studies over 29 years that utilized one of five categories of exposure methods (proximity, air dispersion, hybrid, human inhalation, and biomarkers). Proximity models were found to be a questionable technique as they assume that closer proximity equates to greater exposure. Inhalation models and biomarker estimates were the most effective in assessing personal exposure, but are often cost prohibitive for large study populations. This review suggests that: (i) factors such as uncertainty, validity, data availability, and transferability related to exposure assessment methods should be considered when selecting a model; and (ii) although an entirely discreet new class of approach is not necessary, significant progress could be made through the development of a 'hybrid' model utilizing the strengths of several existing methods. Future work should systematically evaluate the performance of hybrid models compared to other individual exposure assessment methods utilizing geospatial information technologies (e.g. geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing (RS)) to more robustly refine estimates of ambient exposure and quantify the linkages and differences between outdoor, indoor and personal exposure estimates.

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