Creating national air pollution models for population exposure assessment in Canada

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Aug;119(8):1123-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002976. Epub 2011 Mar 31.


Background: Population exposure assessment methods that capture local-scale pollutant variability are needed for large-scale epidemiological studies and surveillance, policy, and regulatory purposes. Currently, such exposure methods are limited.

Methods: We created 2006 national pollutant models for fine particulate matter [PM with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5)], nitrogen dioxide (NO2), benzene, ethylbenzene, and 1,3-butadiene from routinely collected fixed-site monitoring data in Canada. In multiple regression models, we incorporated satellite estimates and geographic predictor variables to capture background and regional pollutant variation and used deterministic gradients to capture local-scale variation. The national NO2 and benzene models are evaluated with independent measurements from previous land use regression models that were conducted in seven Canadian cities. National models are applied to census block-face points, each of which represents the location of approximately 89 individuals, to produce estimates of population exposure.

Results: The national NO2 model explained 73% of the variability in fixed-site monitor concentrations, PM2.5 46%, benzene 62%, ethylbenzene 67%, and 1,3-butadiene 68%. The NO2 model predicted, on average, 43% of the within-city variability in the independent NO2 data compared with 18% when using inverse distance weighting of fixed-site monitoring data. Benzene models performed poorly in predicting within-city benzene variability. Based on our national models, we estimated Canadian ambient annual average population-weighted exposures (in micrograms per cubic meter) of 8.39 for PM2.5, 23.37 for NO2, 1.04 for benzene, 0.63 for ethylbenzene, and 0.09 for 1,3-butadiene.

Conclusions: The national pollutant models created here improve exposure assessment compared with traditional monitor-based approaches by capturing both regional and local-scale pollution variation. Applying national models to routinely collected population location data can extend land use modeling techniques to population exposure assessment and to informing surveillance, policy, and regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Benzene / analysis
  • Benzene Derivatives / analysis
  • Butadienes / analysis
  • Canada
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis


  • Benzene Derivatives
  • Butadienes
  • Benzene
  • 1,3-butadiene
  • ethylbenzene
  • Nitrogen Dioxide