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J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2013 Jan-Feb;23(1):22-31. doi: 10.1038/jes.2012.99. Epub 2012 Oct 17.

Exposure indices for the National Children's Study: application to inhalation exposures in Queens County, NY.

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Environmental & Occupational Health Science Institute, EOHSI, 170 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


Characterization of environmental exposures to population subgroups within the National Children's Study (NCS), or other large-scale human environmental health studies is essential for developing a high-quality data platform for subsequent investigations. A computational formulation utilizing the tiered exposure ranking framework is presented for calculating inhalation exposure indices (EIs) for population subgroups. This formulation employs a probabilistic approach and combines information from diverse, publicly available exposure-relevant databases and information on biological mechanisms, for ranking study locations or population subgroups with respect to potential for specific end point-related environmental exposures. These EIs capture and summarize, within a set of numerical values/ranges, complex distributions of potential exposures to multiple airborne contaminants. These estimates capture spatial and demographic variability within each study segment, and allow for the relative comparison of study locations based on different statistical metrics of exposures. The EI formulation was applied to characterize and rank segments within Queens County, NY, which is one of the Vanguard centers for the NCS. Inhalation EI estimates relevant to respiratory outcomes, and potentially to pregnancy outcomes (low birth weight and preterm birth rates) were calculated at the study segment level. Results indicate that there is substantial variability across the study segments in Queens County, NY, and within segments, and showed an exposure gradient across the study segments that can help guide and target environmental and personal exposure sampling efforts in this county. The results also serve as an example application of the EI for use in other exposure and outcome studies.

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