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Prediction of personal exposure to PM2.5 in mother-child pairs in rural Ghana



Air pollution epidemiological studies usually rely on estimates of long-term exposure to air pollutants, which are difficult to ascertain. This problem is accentuated in settings where sources of personal exposure differ from those of ambient concentrations, including household air pollution environments where cooking is an important source.


The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility of estimating usual exposure to PM2.5 based on short-term measurements.


We leveraged three types of short-term measurements from a cohort of mother-child pairs in 26 communities in rural Ghana: (A) personal exposure to PM2.5 in mothers and age four children, ambient PM2.5 concentrations (B) at the community level, and (C) at a central site. Baseline models were linear mixed models with a random intercept for community or for participant. Lowest root-mean-square-error (RMSE) was used to select the best-performing model.


We analyzed 240 community-days and 251 participant-days of PM2.5. Medians (IQR) of PM2.5 were 19.5 (36.5) μg/m3 for the central site, 28.7 (41.5) μg/m3 for the communities, 70.6 (56.9) μg/m3 for mothers, and 80.9 (74.1) μg/m3 for children. The ICCs (95% CI) for community ambient and personal exposure were 0.30 (0.17, 0.47) and 0.74 (0.65, 0.81) respectively. The sources of variability differed during the Harmattan season. Children’s daily exposure was best predicted by models that used community ambient compared to mother’s exposure as a predictor (log-scale RMSE: 0.165 vs 0.325).


Our results support the feasibility of predicting usual personal exposure to PM2.5 using short-term measurements in settings where household air pollution is an important source of exposure. Our results also suggest that mother’s exposure may not be the best proxy for child’s exposure at age four.

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Fig. 1: Map of study area.
Fig. 2
Fig. 3: Correlations between sets of PM2.5 measurements.

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The authors acknowledge support from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences grants R01 ES02699 and R01 ES019547. The authors acknowledge additional support from P30 ES009089. MD was supported by the Columbia World Project, Combating Household Air Pollution With Clean Energy, and AGL was supported by K23HL135349. The authors are grateful to study participants, without whom this study would not have been possible. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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MD, SC, DJ, and KP developed the study design. MM, SC, KS, and DJ led the exposure assessment work. MD conducted the literature review. MD was responsible for writing code and analyzing the data with input from all other authors. All authors contributed to the interpretation of findings, writing, and editing of manuscript.

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Correspondence to Misbath Daouda.

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Daouda, M., Mujtaba, M.N., Yang, Q. et al. Prediction of personal exposure to PM2.5 in mother-child pairs in rural Ghana. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 32, 629–636 (2022).

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