Uncertainty in maternal exposures to ambient PM2.5 and benzene during pregnancy: Sensitivity to exposure estimation decisions

Spat Spatiotemporal Epidemiol. 2016 May;17:117-29. doi: 10.1016/j.sste.2016.04.009. Epub 2016 May 13.


We investigate uncertainty in estimates of pregnant women's exposure to ambient PM2.5 and benzene derived from central-site monitoring data. Through a study of live births in Florida during 2000-2009, we discuss the selection of spatial and temporal scales of analysis, limiting distances, and aggregation method. We estimate exposure concentrations and classify exposure for a range of alternatives, and compare impacts. Estimated exposure concentrations were most sensitive to the temporal scale of analysis for PM2.5, with similar sensitivity to spatial scale for benzene. Using 1-12 versus 3-8 weeks of gestational age as the exposure window resulted in reclassification of exposure by at least one quartile for up to 37% of mothers for PM2.5 and 27% for benzene. The largest mean absolute differences in concentration resulting from any decision were 0.78 µg/m(3) and 0.44 ppbC, respectively. No bias toward systematically higher or lower estimates was found between choices for any decision.

Keywords: Air pollution; Benzene; Birth defects; Particles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Benzene / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncertainty*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Benzene