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The impact of air exchange rate on ambient air pollution exposure and inequalities across all residential parcels in Massachusetts


Individual housing characteristics can modify outdoor ambient air pollution infiltration through air exchange rate (AER). Time and labor-intensive methods needed to measure AER has hindered characterization of AER distributions across large geographic areas. Using publicly-available data and regression models associating AER with housing characteristics, we estimated AER for all Massachusetts residential parcels. We conducted an exposure disparities analysis, considering ambient PM2.5 concentrations and residential AERs. Median AERs (h1) with closed windows for winter and summer were 0.74 (IQR: 0.47–1.09) and 0.36 (IQR: 0.23–0.57), respectively, with lower AERs for single family homes. Across residential parcels, variability of indoor PM2.5 concentrations of ambient origin was twice that of ambient PM2.5 concentrations. Housing parcels above the 90th percentile of both AER and ambient PM2.5 (i.e., the leakiest homes in areas of highest ambient PM2.5)—vs. below the 10 percentile—were located in neighborhoods with higher proportions of Hispanics (20.0% vs. 2.0%), households with an annual income of less than $20,000 (26.0% vs. 7.5%), and individuals with less than a high school degree (23.2% vs. 5.8%). Our approach can be applied in epidemiological studies to estimate exposure modifiers or to characterize exposure disparities that are not solely based on ambient concentrations.

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The authors appreciate the support of Kevin J. Lane and Joel Schwartz, and Na Wang from the Boston University Data Biostatistical and Epidemiology Data Analytic Center and the Massachusetts Area Planning Council for providing parcel data.


This work was supported by National Institutes of Health [grant number P50 MD010428]; and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [grant number RD-836156 and T32 ES014562]. Although the manuscript was reviewed by the U.S. EPA and approved for publication, it may not necessarily reflect official Agency policy. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

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Correspondence to Anna Rosofsky.

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Rosofsky, A., Levy, J.I., Breen, M.S. et al. The impact of air exchange rate on ambient air pollution exposure and inequalities across all residential parcels in Massachusetts. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 29, 520–530 (2019).

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  • Air exchange rate modeling
  • Exposure inequality
  • Exposure modeling
  • Particulate matter


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