Comparison of spatial interpolation methods for the estimation of air quality data

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2004 Sep;14(5):404-15. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500338.


We recognized that many health outcomes are associated with air pollution, but in this project launched by the US EPA, the intent was to assess the role of exposure to ambient air pollutants as risk factors only for respiratory effects in children. The NHANES-III database is a valuable resource for assessing children's respiratory health and certain risk factors, but lacks monitoring data to estimate subjects' exposures to ambient air pollutants. Since the 1970s, EPA has regularly monitored levels of several ambient air pollutants across the country and these data may be used to estimate NHANES subject's exposure to ambient air pollutants. The first stage of the project eventually evolved into assessing different estimation methods before adopting the estimates to evaluate respiratory health. Specifically, this paper describes an effort using EPA's AIRS monitoring data to estimate ozone and PM10 levels at census block groups. We limited those block groups to counties visited by NHANES-III to make the project more manageable and apply four different interpolation methods to the monitoring data to derive air concentration levels. Then we examine method-specific differences in concentration levels and determine conditions under which different methods produce significantly different concentration values. We find that different interpolation methods do not produce dramatically different estimations in most parts of the US where monitor density was relatively low. However, in areas where monitor density was relatively high (i.e., California), we find substantial differences in exposure estimates across the interpolation methods. Our results offer some insights into terms of using the EPA monitoring data for the chosen spatial interpolation methods.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / poisoning*
  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Quality Control
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Air Pollutants