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The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants

Abstract

Because human activities impact the timing, location, and degree of pollutant exposure, they play a key role in explaining exposure variation. This fact has motivated the collection of activity pattern data for their specific use in exposure assessments. The largest of these recent efforts is the National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS), a 2-year probability-based telephone survey ( n=9386) of exposure-related human activities in the United States (U.S.) sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The primary purpose of NHAPS was to provide comprehensive and current exposure information over broad geographical and temporal scales, particularly for use in probabilistic population exposure models. NHAPS was conducted on a virtually daily basis from late September 1992 through September 1994 by the University of Maryland's Survey Research Center using a computer-assisted telephone interview instrument (CATI) to collect 24-h retrospective diaries and answers to a number of personal and exposure-related questions from each respondent. The resulting diary records contain beginning and ending times for each distinct combination of location and activity occurring on the diary day (i.e., each microenvironment). Between 340 and 1713 respondents of all ages were interviewed in each of the 10 EPA regions across the 48 contiguous states. Interviews were completed in 63% of the households contacted. NHAPS respondents reported spending an average of 87% of their time in enclosed buildings and about 6% of their time in enclosed vehicles. These proportions are fairly constant across the various regions of the U.S. and Canada and for the California population between the late 1980s, when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) sponsored a state-wide activity pattern study, and the mid-1990s, when NHAPS was conducted. However, the number of people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in California seems to have decreased over the same time period, where exposure is determined by the reported time spent with a smoker. In both California and the entire nation, the most time spent exposed to ETS was reported to take place in residential locations.

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Notes

  1. We use the CAPS acronym to mean both the California survey of adults–youth and the survey of children under 12. Miller et al. (1998a) use CAPS to refer only to the study of children.

  2. AB13 banned smoking in California workplaces on January 1, 1995 — with an exception for bars, clubs, and casinos. That exception was extended until January 1, 1998 when smoking was banned in all bar–restaurants throughout the state.

  3. There are also a number of other recognized sources of biases which are expected to have a small impact on average statistics. These other biases include the following: (1) the survey was limited to individuals residing in homes with telephones; (2) the survey did not include individuals who were on vacation, away from home for extended periods, or homeless, and who may, therefore, spend more time outdoors than those who were actually surveyed; (3) the survey did not include people in institutions/hospitals who might spend less time outdoors; and (4) the diaries may be missing brief periods of time that people spent outdoors such as might occur when one walks to a car or store, or takes out the garbage.

Abbreviations

CARB:

California Air Resources Board

C 6H 6:

benzene

CAPS:

California Activity Pattern Surveys sponsored by CARB ( n=1200 for ages under 12

n=1762 for ages 12 and over)

CATI:

computer-assisted telephone interview

CHAPS:

Canadian Human Activity Pattern Survey ( n=2381)

CHCl 3:

chloroform

CO:

carbon monoxide

doer:

a sampled individual who is in a specific microenvironment for non-zero time during a specified time interval

ETS:

environmental tobacco smoke

HAPEM:

Hazardous Air Pollutant Exposure Model

indirect approach:

an approach to modeling human exposure by weighting pollutant concentrations by the time spent in different microenvironments

LBNL:

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

MCTBRP:

Multinational Comparative Time Budget Research Project

microenvironment:

the occurrence in a person's day of a unique combination of location and activity, although originally defined by Duan (1982) as a location of homogeneous pollutant concentration

n :

sample size

NAAQS:

National Ambient Air Quality Standards

NHAPS:

National Human Activity Pattern Survey ( n=9386)

NHAPS-CA:

the NHAPS California subsample ( n=988)

NO 2:

nitrogen dioxide

O 3:

ozone

PAHs:

polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

pNEM:

probabilistic NAAQS Exposure Model

PSU:

primary sampling unit

time budget:

the original term for a person's time diary

RDD:

random digit dial

SERD:

smoking-exposure-related duration

SRP:

self-reported proximity (to a smoker)

TEAM:

Total Exposure Assessment Methodology

U.S.:

United States

EPA:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

VOCs:

volatile organic compounds.

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Acknowledgements

The research described in this article has been funded, wholly or in part, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Cooperative Agreement CR816183 with the University of Maryland, under contract 68-W5-0011 to Lockheed Martin Services Group, and as part of a the Human Exposure and Dose Simulation University Partnership (HEADSUP) among Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Stanford University, and EPA (agreement number DW89931890). It has been subjected to Agency review and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

The preparation of this manuscript — including the data analyses — was also funded, in part, by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) of California (award no. 6RT-0118).

The authors thank the University of Maryland's Survey Research Center for designing NHAPS, conducting the NHAPS data collection and data management activities, and for assisting in the data analysis phase of the study. The authors also thank W.W. Nazaroff for reading and commenting on the manuscript, particularly in pointing out important sample biases, A.B. Bodnar and R. Maddalena of LBNL for reviewing the manuscript, and the anonymous peer reviewers for their thoughtful suggestions.

Finally, we thank the following distinguished group of scientists who served on the NHAPS panels. Mel Kollander, Stanley Presser, and Lance Wallace served on the survey design panel; Steve Colome, Naihua Duan, Peggy Jenkins, Paul Lioy, and Barry Ryan served as the peer review panel; and the subject matter expert panel consisted of Julian Andelman, Michael Firestone, Patrick Kennedy, Ted Johnson, Thomas McCurdy, and James Repace.

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KLEPEIS, N., NELSON, W., OTT, W. et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 11, 231–252 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.jea.7500165

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