Development and performance evaluation of a GIS-based metric to assess exposure to airborne pollutant emissions from industrial sources

Environ Health. 2019 Jan 25;18(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s12940-019-0446-x.


Background: Dioxins are environmental and persistent organic carcinogens with endocrine disrupting properties. A positive association with several cancers, including risk of breast cancer has been suggested.

Objectives: This study aimed to develop and assess performances of an exposure metric based on a Geographic Information System (GIS) through comparison with a validated dispersion model to estimate historical industrial dioxin exposure for its use in a case-control study nested within a prospective cohort.

Methods: Industrial dioxin sources were inventoried over the whole French territory (n > 2500) and annual average releases were estimated between 1990 and 2008. In three selected areas (rural, urban and urban-costal), dioxin dispersion was modelled using SIRANE, an urban Gaussian model and exposure of the French E3N cohort participants was estimated. The GIS-based metric was developed, calibrated and compared to SIRANE results using a set of parameters (local meteorological data, characteristics of industrial sources, e.g. emission intensity and stack height), by calculating weighted kappa statistics (wκ) and coefficient of determination (R2). Furthermore, as performance evaluation, the final GIS-based metric was tested to assess atmospheric exposure to cadmium.

Results: The concordance between the GIS-based metric and the dispersion model for dioxin exposure estimate was strong (wκ median = 0.78 (1st quintile = 0.72, 3rd quintile =0.82) and R2 median = 0.82 (1st quintile = 0.71, 3rd quintile = 0.87)). We observed similar performance for cadmium.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrated the ability of the GIS-based metric to reliably characterize long-term environmental dioxin and cadmium exposures as well as the pertinence of using dispersion modelling to construct and calibrate the GIS-based metric.

Keywords: Cadmium; Cancer; Dioxins; Dispersion modelling; Exposure assessment; GIS; SIRANE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Cadmium / analysis*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dioxins / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Industry*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dioxins
  • Cadmium