Predicting Adult Pulmonary Ventilation Volume and Wearing Compliance by On-Board Accelerometry During Personal Level Exposure Assessments

Atmos Environ (1994). 2012 Sep;57:126-137. doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2012.03.057.


Background: Metabolic functions typically increase with human activity, but optimal methods to characterize activity levels for real-time predictions of ventilation volume (l/min) during exposure assessments have not been available. Could tiny, triaxial accelerometers be incorporated into personal level monitors to define periods of acceptable wearing compliance, and allow the exposures (μg/m3) to be extended to potential doses in μg/min/kg of body weight?

Objectives: In a pilot effort, we tested: 1) whether appropriately-processed accelerometer data could be utilized to predict compliance and in linear regressions to predict ventilation volumes in real time as an on-board component of personal level exposure sensor systems, and 2) whether locating the exposure monitors on the chest in the breathing zone, provided comparable accelerometric data to other locations more typically utilized (waist, thigh, wrist, etc.).

Methods: Prototype exposure monitors from RTI International and Columbia University were worn on the chest by a pilot cohort of adults while conducting an array of scripted activities (all <10 METS), spanning common recumbent, sedentary, and ambulatory activity categories. Referee Wocket accelerometers that were placed at various body locations allowed comparison with the chest-located exposure sensor accelerometers. An Oxycon Mobile mask was used to measure oral-nasal ventilation volumes in-situ. For the subset of participants with complete data (n= 22), linear regressions were constructed (processed accelerometric variable versus ventilation rate) for each participant and exposure monitor type, and Pearson correlations computed to compare across scenarios.

Results: Triaxial accelerometer data were demonstrated to be adequately sensitive indicators for predicting exposure monitor wearing compliance. Strong linear correlations (R values from 0.77 to 0.99) were observed for all participants for both exposure sensor accelerometer variables against ventilation volume for recumbent, sedentary, and ambulatory activities with MET values ~<6. The RTI monitors mean R value of 0.91 was slightly higher than the Columbia monitors mean of 0.86 due to utilizing a 20 Hz data rate instead of a slower 1 Hz rate. A nominal mean regression slope was computed for the RTI system across participants and showed a modest RSD of +/-36.6%. Comparison of the correlation values of the exposure monitors with the Wocket accelerometers at various body locations showed statistically identical regressions for all sensors at alternate hip, ankle, upper arm, thigh, and pocket locations, but not for the Wocket accelerometer located at the dominant-side wrist location (R=0.57; p=0.016).

Conclusions: Even with a modest number of adult volunteers, the consistency and linearity of regression slopes for all subjects were very good with excellent within-person Pearson correlations for the accelerometer versus ventilation volume data. Computing accelerometric standard deviations allowed good sensitivity for compliance assessments even for sedentary activities. These pilot findings supported the hypothesis that a common linear regression is likely to be usable for a wider range of adults to predict ventilation volumes from accelerometry data over a range of low to moderate energy level activities. The predicted volumes would then allow real-time estimates of potential dose, enabling more robust panel studies. The poorer correlation in predicting ventilation rate for an accelerometer located on the wrist suggested that this location should not be considered for predictions of ventilation volume.

Keywords: Ventilation volume; adults; personal exposure; potential dose; triaxial accelerometry; wearing compliance.