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J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2013 Nov-Dec;23(6):627-36. doi: 10.1038/jes.2013.39. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Comparing exposure metrics for the effects of fine particulate matter on emergency hospital admissions.

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Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, 5109 SAS Hall, 2311 Stinson Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.


A crucial step in an epidemiological study of the effects of air pollution is to accurately quantify exposure of the population. In this paper, we investigate the sensitivity of the health effects estimates associated with short-term exposure to fine particulate matter with respect to three potential metrics for daily exposure: ambient monitor data, estimated values from a deterministic atmospheric chemistry model, and stochastic daily average human exposure simulation output. Each of these metrics has strengths and weaknesses when estimating the association between daily changes in ambient exposure to fine particulate matter and daily emergency hospital admissions. Monitor data is readily available, but is incomplete over space and time. The atmospheric chemistry model output is spatially and temporally complete but may be less accurate than monitor data. The stochastic human exposure estimates account for human activity patterns and variability in pollutant concentration across microenvironments, but requires extensive input information and computation time. To compare these metrics, we consider a case study of the association between fine particulate matter and emergency hospital admissions for respiratory cases for the Medicare population across three counties in New York. Of particular interest is to quantify the impact and/or benefit to using the stochastic human exposure output to measure ambient exposure to fine particulate matter. Results indicate that the stochastic human exposure simulation output indicates approximately the same increase in the relative risk associated with emergency admissions as using a chemistry model or monitoring data as exposure metrics. However, the stochastic human exposure simulation output and the atmospheric chemistry model both bring additional information, which helps to reduce the uncertainly in our estimated risk.

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