Factors affecting the association between ambient concentrations and personal exposures to particles and gases

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 May;114(5):649-54. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8422.


Results from air pollution exposure assessment studies suggest that ambient fine particles [particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter<or=2.5 microg (PM2.5)], but not ambient gases, are strong proxies of corresponding personal exposures. For particles, the strength of the personal-ambient association can differ by particle component and level of home ventilation. For gases, however, such as ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2), the impact of home ventilation on personal-ambient associations is untested. We measured 24-hr personal exposures and corresponding ambient concentrations to PM2.5, sulfate (SO2-(4)), elemental carbon, O3, NO2, and SO2 for 10 nonsmoking older adults in Steubenville, Ohio. We found strong associations between ambient particle concentrations and corresponding personal exposures. In contrast, although significant, most associations between ambient gases and their corresponding exposures had low slopes and R2 values; the personal-ambient NO2 association in the fall season was moderate. For both particles and gases, personal-ambient associations were highest for individuals spending most of their time in high- compared with low-ventilated environments. Cross-pollutant models indicated that ambient particle concentrations were much better surrogates for exposure to particles than to gases. With the exception of ambient NO2 in the fall, which showed moderate associations with personal exposures, ambient gases were poor proxies for both gas and particle exposures. In combination, our results suggest that a) ventilation may be an important modifier of the magnitude of effect in time-series health studies, and b) results from time-series health studies based on 24-hr ambient concentrations are more readily interpretable for particles than for gases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Seasons


  • Air Pollutants