An introduction to the indirect exposure assessment approach: modeling human exposure using microenvironmental measurements and the recent National Human Activity Pattern Survey

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 May;107 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):365-74. doi: 10.1289/ehp.99107s2365.


Indirect exposure approaches offer a feasible and accurate method for estimating population exposures to indoor pollutants, including environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). In an effort to make the indirect exposure assessment approach more accessible to people in the health and risk assessment fields, this paper provides examples using real data from (italic>a(/italic>) a week-long personal carbon monoxide monitoring survey conducted by the author; and (italic>b(/italic>) the 1992 to 1994 National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS) for the United States. The indirect approach uses measurements of exposures in specific microenvironments (e.g., homes, bars, offices), validated microenvironmental models (based on the mass balance equation), and human activity pattern data obtained from questionnaires to predict frequency distributions of exposure for entire populations. This approach requires fewer resources than the direct approach to exposure assessment, for which the distribution of monitors to a representative sample of a given population is necessary. In the indirect exposure assessment approach, average microenvironmental concentrations are multiplied by the total time spent in each microenvironment to give total integrated exposure. By assuming that the concentrations encountered in each of 10 location categories are the same for different members of the U.S. population (i.e., the NHAPS respondents), the hypothetical contribution that ETS makes to the average 24-hr respirable suspended particle exposure for Americans working their main job is calculated in this paper to be 18 microg/m3. This article is an illustrative review and does not contain an actual exposure assessment or model validation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Health Surveys
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Restaurants
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • United States
  • Workplace


  • Biomarkers
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Carbon Monoxide