Evaluation of air quality zone classification methods based on ambient air concentration exposure

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2017 May;67(5):550-564. doi: 10.1080/10962247.2016.1263585. Epub 2016 Dec 14.


Air quality zones are used by regulatory authorities to implement ambient air standards in order to protect human health. Air quality measurements at discrete air monitoring stations are critical tools to determine whether an air quality zone complies with local air quality standards or is noncompliant. This study presents a novel approach for evaluation of air quality zone classification methods by breaking the concentration distribution of a pollutant measured at an air monitoring station into compliance and exceedance probability density functions (PDFs) and then using Monte Carlo analysis with the Central Limit Theorem to estimate long-term exposure. The purpose of this paper is to compare the risk associated with selecting one ambient air classification approach over another by testing the possible exposure an individual living within a zone may face. The chronic daily intake (CDI) is utilized to compare different pollutant exposures over the classification duration of 3 years between two classification methods. Historical data collected from air monitoring stations in Kuwait are used to build representative models of 1-hr NO2 and 8-hr O3 within a zone that meets the compliance requirements of each method. The first method, the "3 Strike" method, is a conservative approach based on a winner-take-all approach common with most compliance classification methods, while the second, the 99% Rule method, allows for more robust analyses and incorporates long-term trends. A Monte Carlo analysis is used to model the CDI for each pollutant and each method with the zone at a single station and with multiple stations. The model assumes that the zone is already in compliance with air quality standards over the 3 years under the different classification methodologies. The model shows that while the CDI of the two methods differs by 2.7% over the exposure period for the single station case, the large number of samples taken over the duration period impacts the sensitivity of the statistical tests, causing the null hypothesis to fail. Local air quality managers can use either methodology to classify the compliance of an air zone, but must accept that the 99% Rule method may cause exposures that are statistically more significant than the 3 Strike method.

Implications: A novel method using the Central Limit Theorem and Monte Carlo analysis is used to directly compare different air standard compliance classification methods by estimating the chronic daily intake of pollutants. This method allows air quality managers to rapidly see how individual classification methods may impact individual population groups, as well as to evaluate different pollutants based on dosage and exposure when complete health impacts are not known.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / standards
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Humans
  • Kuwait
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Monte Carlo Method


  • Air Pollutants