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Pure Appl. Chem. Vol. 73, No. 6, pp. 933–958 (2001)

Pure and Applied Chemistry

Vol. 73, Issue 6


Human exposure to outdoor air pollution (IUPAC Technical Report)

Ole Hertel*,1, Frank A. A. M. De Leeuw 2, Oleraaschou-Nielsen3, Steen Solvang Jensen1, David Gee4, Olf Herbarth5, Sara Pryor6, Finn Palmgren1, and Erik Olsen7

1National Environmental Research Institute, Department of Atmospheric Environment, P.O. Box 358, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark; 2Laboratory for Air Research, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, P.O. Box 1, 3270 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands; 3Danish Cancer Society, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Strandboulevarden 49, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark; 4European Environment Agency, Kongens Nytorv 6, 1050 Copenhagen, Denmark; 5UFZ-Umweltforschungszentrum Leipzig-Halle GmbH, Department of Human Exposure Research and Epidemiology, Permoserstraße 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany; 6Atmospheric Science Program, Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA; 7National Institute of Occupational Health, Lersø Park Allé 150, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract: Human exposure to outdoor air pollution is believed to cause severe health effects, especially in urban areas where pollution levels often are high, because of the poor dispersion conditions and high density of pollution sources. Many factors influence human health, and a good assessment of human air pollution exposure is, therefore, crucial for a proper determination of possible links between air pollution and health effects. Assessment of human exposure is, however, not straightforward, and this is the background for the present paper, which recommends how to carry out such assessments. Assessment of human exposure to air pollution may be carried out by use of:

  • categorical classification,
  • application of biomarkers,
  • analysis of air pollution data from routine monitoring networks,
  • personal portable exposure monitors, or
  • application of mathematical air pollution exposure models.

The categorical classification is a crude indirect method based on indicators of exposure such as type of residence, type of job, presence of indoor sources, etc. Categorical classification is generally inadequate for application in air pollution epidemiology. Biomarkers can be a strong instrument in assessment of health effects and provide information about air pollution exposure and dose. Use of biomarkers is, therefore, particularly useful when applied in combination with exposure assessment through one of the methods 3 to 5. The main focus of this paper is on these three methods for determination of human air pollution exposure. The optimal solution is clearly a combination of methods 2 to 5, but the available resources often set a limit to how far the assessment is carried out, and the choice of strategy will, therefore, often be very important for the outcome of the final study. This paper describes how these approaches may be applied and outlines advantages and disadvantages of the approaches used individually and in combination. Furthermore, some examples of specific applications in Denmark and the Netherlands are given for illustration.

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