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Modeling indoor particulate exposures in inner-city school classrooms

Abstract

Outdoor air pollution penetrates buildings and contributes to total indoor exposures. We investigated the relationship of indoor to outdoor particulate matter in inner-city school classrooms. The School Inner City Asthma Study investigates the effect of classroom-based environmental exposures on students with asthma in the northeast United States. Mixed effects linear models were used to determine the relationships between indoor PM2.5 (particulate matter) and black carbon (BC), and their corresponding outdoor concentrations, and to develop a model for predicting exposures to these pollutants. The indoor–outdoor sulfur ratio was used as an infiltration factor of outdoor fine particles. Weeklong concentrations of PM2.5 and BC in 199 samples from 136 classrooms (30 school buildings) were compared with those measured at a central monitoring site averaged over the same timeframe. Mixed effects regression models found significant random intercept and slope effects, which indicate that: (1) there are important PM2.5 sources in classrooms; (2) the penetration of outdoor PM2.5 particles varies by school and (3) the site-specific outside PM2.5 levels (inferred by the models) differ from those observed at the central monitor site. Similar results were found for BC except for lack of indoor sources. The fitted predictions from the sulfur-adjusted models were moderately predictive of observed indoor pollutant levels (out of sample correlations: PM2.5: r2=0.68, BC; r2=0.61). Our results suggest that PM2.5 has important classroom sources, which vary by school. Furthermore, using these mixed effects models, classroom exposures can be accurately predicted for dates when central site measures are available but indoor measures are not available.

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Acknowledgements

This study was made possible by the dedicated staff of the School Inner City Asthma Study, and the participating schools, children and families. This study was supported by NIH grants K23AI106945 (PI Gaffin), K23 AI104780 (PI: Sheehan), K23ES023700 (PI: Lai), R01AI 073964, R01AI 073964-02S1, K24 AI 106822, U01 AI 110397, and U10HL098102 (PI: Phipatanakul). This work was conducted with support from Harvard Catalyst, The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health Award UL1 TR001102) and financial contributions from Harvard University and its affiliated academic healthcare centers. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University and its affiliated academic healthcare centers, or the National Institutes of Health. This publication was also made possible by US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) grant RD-83479801 and was also funded (in part) by the cooperative agreement award number FAIN: U61TS000237 from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The USEPA supports the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units by providing partial funding to the ATSDR under Inter-Agency Agreement number DW-75-92301301. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the ATSDR or USEPA. Further, USEPA or ATSDR do not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication.

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Correspondence to Wanda Phipatanakul.

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Gaffin, J., Petty, C., Hauptman, M. et al. Modeling indoor particulate exposures in inner-city school classrooms. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 27, 451–457 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2016.52

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2016.52

Keywords

  • asthma
  • black carbon
  • exposure modeling
  • particulate matter
  • PM2.5
  • school
  • sulfur tracer method

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