Evaluating the application of multipollutant exposure metrics in air pollution health studies
BACKGROUND: Health effects associated with air pollution are typically evaluated using a single pollutant approach, yet people are exposed to mixtures consisting of multiple pollutants that may have independent or combined effects on human health. Development of exposure metrics that represent the multipollutant environment is important to understand the impact of ambient air pollution on human health.
OBJECTIVES: We reviewed existing multipollutant exposure metrics to evaluate how they can be applied to understand associations between air pollution and health effects.
METHODS: We conducted a literature search using both targeted search terms and a relational search in Web of Science and PubMed in April and December 2013. We focused on exposure metrics that are constructed from ambient pollutant concentrations and can be broadly applied to evaluate air pollution health effects.
RESULTS: Multipollutant exposure metrics were identified in 57 eligible studies. Metrics reviewed can be categorized into broad pollutant grouping paradigms based on: 1) source emissions and atmospheric processes or 2) common health outcomes.
DISCUSSION: When comparing metrics, it is apparent that no universal exposure metric exists; each type of metric addresses different research questions and provides unique information on human health effects. Key limitations of these metrics include the balance between complexity and simplicity as well as the lack of an existing "gold standard" for multipollutant health effects and exposure.
CONCLUSIONS: Future work on characterizing multipollutant exposure error and joint effects will inform development of improved multipollutant metrics to advance air pollution health effects research and human health risk assessment.
Multipollutant; Air pollution; Exposure; Health effects