Environmental exposomics and lung cancer risk assessment in the Philadelphia metropolitan area using ZIP code-level hazard indices

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 Jun;28(24):31758-31769. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-12884-z. Epub 2021 Feb 21.


To illustrate methods for assessing environmental exposures associated with lung cancer risk, we investigated anthropogenic based air pollutant data in a major metropolitan area using United States-Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) (1987-2017), and PM2.5 (1998-2016) and NO2 (1996-2012) concentrations from NASA satellite data. We studied chemicals reported according to the following five exposome features: (1) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cancer grouping; (2) priority EPA polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); (3) component of diesel exhaust; (4) status as a volatile organic compound (VOC); and (5) evidence of lung carcinogenesis. Published articles from PubChem were tallied for occurrences of 10 key characteristics of cancer-causing agents on those chemicals. Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) codes with higher exposures were identified in two ways: (1) combined mean exposure from all features, and (2) hazard index derived through a multi-step multi-criteria decision analysis (MMCDA) process. VOCs, IARC Group 1 carcinogens consisted 82.3% and 11.5% of the reported TRI emissions, respectively. ZIP codes along major highways tended to have greater exposure. The MMCDA approach yielded hazard indices based on imputed toxicity, occurrence, and persistence for risk assessment. Despite many studies describing environmental exposures and lung cancer risk, this study develops a method to integrate these exposures into population-based exposure estimates that could be incorporated into future lung cancer screening trials and benefit public health surveillance of lung cancer incidence. Our methodology may be applied to probe other hazardous exposures for other cancers.

Keywords: Air pollution; Carcinogens; Exposome; Geospatial modeling; Hazard index; Toxic release inventory.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Lung / chemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms* / chemically induced
  • Lung Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Philadelphia
  • Risk Assessment


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter