Modeling particle exposure in U.S. trucking terminals

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Journal Article
Environmental Science and Technology, 2006, 40 (13), pp. 4226 - 4232
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Multi-tiered sampling approaches are common in environmental and occupational exposure assessment, where exposures for a given individual are often modeled based on simultaneous measurements taken at multiple indoor and outdoor sites. The monitoring data from such studies is hierarchical by design, imposing a complex covariance structure that must be accounted for in order to obtain unbiased estimates of exposure. Statistical methods such as structural equation modeling (SEM) represent a useful alternative to simple linear regression in these cases, providing simultaneous and unbiased predictions of each level of exposure based on a set of covariates specific to the exposure setting. We test the SEM approach using data from a large exposure assessment of diesel and combustion particles in the U.S. trucking industry. The exposure assessment includes data from 36 different trucking terminals across the United States sampled between 2001 and 2005, measuring PM2.5 and its elemental carbon (EC), organic carbon (OC) components, by personal monitoring, and sampling at two indoor work locations and an outdoor "background" location. Using the SEM method, we predict the following: (1) personal exposures as a function of work-related exposure and smoking status; (2) work-related exposure as a function of terminal characteristics, indoor ventilation, job location, and background exposure conditions; and (3) background exposure conditions as a function of weather, nearby source pollution, and other regional differences across terminal sites. The primary advantage of SEMs in this setting is the ability to simultaneously predict exposures at each of the sampling locations, while accounting for the complex covariance structure among the measurements and descriptive variables. The statistically significant results and high R 2 values observed from the trucking industry application supports the broader use of this approach in exposure assessment modeling. © 2006 American Chemical Society.
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