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Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Apr;117(4):522-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11692. Epub 2008 Nov 19.

Predicting chronic fine and coarse particulate exposures using spatiotemporal models for the Northeastern and Midwestern United States.

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Exposure, Epidemiology and Risk Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.



Chronic epidemiologic studies of particulate matter (PM) are limited by the lack of monitoring data, relying instead on citywide ambient concentrations to estimate exposures. This method ignores within-city spatial gradients and restricts studies to areas with nearby monitoring data. This lack of data is particularly restrictive for fine particles (PM with aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 microm; PM(2.5)) and coarse particles (PM with aerodynamic diameter 2.5-10 microm; PM(10-2.5)), for which monitoring is limited before 1999. To address these limitations, we developed spatiotemporal models to predict monthly outdoor PM(2.5) and PM(10-2.5) concentrations for the northeastern and midwestern United States.


For PM(2.5), we developed models for two periods: 1988-1998 and 1999-2002. Both models included smooth spatial and regression terms of geographic information system-based and meteorologic predictors. To compensate for sparse monitoring data, the pre-1999 model also included predicted PM(10) (PM with aerodynamic diameter < 10 microm) and extinction coefficients (km(-1)). PM(10-2.5) levels were estimated as the difference in monthly predicted PM(10) and PM(2.5), with predicted PM(10) from our previously developed PM(10) model.


Predictive performance for PM(2.5) was strong (cross-validation R2 = 0.77 and 0.69 for post-1999 and pre-1999 PM(2.5) models, respectively) with high precision (2.2 and 2.7 microg/m3, respectively). Models performed well irrespective of population density and season. Predictive performance for PM(10-2.5) was weaker (cross-validation R2 = 0.39) with lower precision (5.5 microg/m3). PM(10-2.5) levels exhibited greater local spatial variability than PM(10) or PM(2.5), suggesting that PM(2.5) measurements at ambient monitoring sites are more representative for surrounding populations than for PM(10) and especially PM(10-2.5).


We provide semiempirical models to predict spatially and temporally resolved long-term average outdoor concentrations of PM(2.5) and PM(10-2.5) for estimating exposures of populations living in the northeastern and midwestern United States.


air pollution; extinction coefficient; fine particulate matter; generalized additive mixed models; geographic information system; geostatistics; spatial smoothing; spatiotemporal modeling; visual range

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