Background: A challenge in environmental health research is collecting robust data sets to facilitate comparisons between personal chemical exposures, the environment and health outcomes. To address this challenge, the Exposure, Location and lung Function (ELF) tool was designed in collaboration with communities that share environmental health concerns. These concerns centered on respiratory health and ambient air quality. The ELF collects exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), given their association with diminished lung function. Here, we describe the ELF as a novel environmental health assessment tool.
Methods: The ELF tool collects chemical exposure for 62 PAHs using passive sampling silicone wristbands, geospatial location data and respiratory lung function measures using a paired hand-held spirometer. The ELF was tested by 10 individuals with mild to moderate asthma for 7 days. Participants wore a wristband each day to collect PAH exposure, carried a cell phone, and performed spirometry daily to collect respiratory health measures. Location data was gathered using the geospatial positioning system technology in an Android cell-phone.
Results: We detected and quantified 31 PAHs across the study population. PAH exposure data showed spatial and temporal sensitivity within and between participants. Location data was used with existing datasets such as the Toxics Release Inventory and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hazard Mapping System. Respiratory health outcomes were validated using criteria from the American Thoracic Society with 94% of participant data meeting standards. Finally, the ELF was used with a high degree of compliance (> 90%) by community members.
Conclusions: The ELF is a novel environmental health assessment tool that allows for personal data collection spanning chemical exposures, location and lung function measures as well as self-reported information.
Keywords: Air quality; Asthma; Environmental health; Exposome; PAHs; Silicone wristbands; Spirometer; Wearable sensors.