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Int J Health Geogr. 2008 Jan 11;7:1. doi: 10.1186/1476-072X-7-1.

Validation of the geographic position of EPER-Spain industries.

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Cancer and Environmental Epidemiology Area, National Centre of Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Madrid, Spain.



The European Pollutant Emission Register in Spain (EPER-Spain) is a public inventory of pollutant industries created by decision of the European Union. The location of these industries is geocoded and the first published data correspond to 2001. Publication of these data will allow for quantification of the effect of proximity to one or more such plant on cancer and all-cause mortality observed in nearby towns. However, as errors have been detected in the geocoding of many of the pollutant foci shown in the EPER, it was decided that a validation study should be conducted into the accuracy of these co-ordinates. EPER-Spain geographic co-ordinates were drawn from the European Environment Agency (EEA) server and the Spanish Ministry of the Environment (MOE). The Farm Plot Geographic Information System (Sistema de Información Geográfica de Parcelas Agrícolas) (SIGPAC) enables orthophotos (digitalized aerial images) of any territorial point across Spain to be obtained. Through a search of co-ordinates in the SIGPAC, all the industrial foci (except farms) were located. The quality criteria used to ascertain possible errors in industrial location were high, medium and low quality, where industries were situated at a distance of less than 500 metres, more than 500 metres but less than 1 kilometre, and more than 1 kilometre from their real locations, respectively.


Insofar as initial registry quality was concerned, 84% of industrial complexes were inaccurately positioned (low quality) according to EEA data versus 60% for Spanish MOE data. The distribution of the distances between the original and corrected co-ordinates for each of the industries on the registry revealed that the median error was 2.55 kilometres for Spain overall (according to EEA data). The Autonomous Regions that displayed most errors in industrial geocoding were Murcia, Canary Islands, Andalusia and Madrid. Correct co-ordinates were successfully allocated to 100% of EPER-Spain industries.


Knowing the exact location of pollutant foci is vital to obtain reliable and valid conclusions in any study where distance to the focus is a decisive factor, as in the case of the consequences of industrial pollution on the health of neighbouring populations.

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