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Analysis of small area variations in air quality and health: a methodological study


To apply, test and evaluate new and emerging methodologies in the fields of epidemiology, geography, pollution modelling and small area health statistics, and to bring them together in a consistent geographic framework, using the example of childhood wheeze and outdoor air pollution.

Studies of air quality and health have been hampered by deficiencies in both the data and the methodologies. Problems have included the lack of high quality spatially referenced morbidity data; the limited geographic coverage of routine networks monitoring air quality; the lack of an appropriate means of combining the health and environment data within a geographic framework; statistical problems associated with small area variability in disease rates and spatial auto-correlation.

The study is to be conducted in contrasting environments, characterised by a traditional industrial/rural area in hilly terrain in the UK; and a residential area of the Netherlands in flat terrain, but with important point and diffuse sources of air pollution. Repeated high density pollution monitoring is to be carried out using low-cost passive samplers, mainly for NO2 but also for SO2 volatile organic compounds, benzene and ozone. Pollution modelling is to be used to map pollution concentration fields in each of the study areas, as a basis for assessing exposure risk. Data on childhood wheeze and potential confounding variables are to be collected by questionnaire survey of the parents or guardians of local school-children. Geographical Information System (GIS) techniques are to be used to bring the health and pollution data together at the small area level. Finally, statistical analysis to relate the health and the pollution data is to be carried out using hierarchical random effect models, with adjustment for possible socioeconomic confounding. The results of the project are expected to improve available methodologies in environmental epidemiology, strengthen the scientific basis for the protection of human health, and thereby offer support to EC policies in this area.

In a sub-project, "Small area variation in air quality and respiratory health in children in Prague", air pollution and respiratory health of school children at the small area level in an urban area with historically high levels of air pollution (Prague) will be explored. Specific aims are : i) On the basis of detailed measurements, to produce estimates of air pollution at a small area level in a defined urban area; ii) To study the prevalence of defined indicators of respiratory health in school children; iii) To link these two sets of data using geographical information systems (GIS) technology, and to investigate the association of air pollution and respiratory health in children at the small area level.

In a second sub-project, "Introduction of GIS in small area studies of air pollution and health in Poland", air pollution and respiratory health of school children in another urban area with historically high levels of air pollution (Warsaw) will be studied. Specific aims are to apply and validate methods for the collection of relevant health and air pollution data at an appropriate spatial scale and resolution. This will involve data on nitrogen and sulphur dioxides (and possibly ozone and benzene) through high density monitoring with passive samplers; data on respiratory health of children through a standardized questionnaire; and modelling and spatial interpolation techniques to assess spatial patterns of air pollution.

Air quality in both Prague and Warsaw will be assessed using two sources of information : (i) routine measurements of air quality by fixed-site monitoring stations, which will provide data for modelling purposes and validation of the passive samplers and (ii) air quality information collected from a dense network (approx. 100 sites) of passive samplers. Sulphur dioxide will be used as the main indicator of air quality.

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London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Keppel Street
WC1E 7HT London
United Kingdom

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Participants (2)

9,antonie Van Leeuwenhoeklaan 9
3720 BA Bilthoven

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University of Huddersfield
United Kingdom
HD1 3DH Huddersfield

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