Modeling spatial variation of gaseous air pollutants and particulate matters in a Metropolitan area using mobile monitoring data.
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Geo-statistical models have been applied to assess fine-scale air pollution exposures in epidemiological studies. Many of the models were developed for criteria air pollutants rather than others that have not been regulated (e.g., ultrafine particles, black carbon, and benzene) which may also be harmful to human health. We aim to develop spatial models for regulated and non-regulated air pollutants using 6 algorithms and compare their prediction performances. A mobile platform with fast-response monitors was used to measure gaseous air pollutants (nitrogen dioxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxides, ozone, benzene, toluene, methanol) and particulate matters (black carbon, surface area, count- and volume-concentrations of ultrafine particles) in Beijing, China for 30 days from July to October 2008. Mobile monitoring data for model building were spatially aggregated into 130 road segments of approximately 600-m interval on the sampling routes after temporal adjustment of background concentrations. The best models for the air pollutants were dominated by traffic variables, which explained more than 60% of the spatial variations (range: 0.61 for methanol to 0.88 for ozone) based on the highest cross-validation R2 and the lowest root mean square error among different algorithms. Amongst the 6 algorithms, the spatial models using partial least squares regression (PLS, a dimension reduction algorithm) and random forest (RF, a machine learning algorithm) algorithms outperformed the models with other algorithms. Exposure predictions from the best models varied substantially with distinct spatial patterns between the air pollutants. Predictions with multiple modeling algorithms were moderately correlated with each other for the same pollutant at the fine-scale grids across the city. Exposure models, especially based on PLS and RF algorithms, captured the spatial variation of short-term average concentrations, had adequate predictive validity, and could be applied to assess toxic air pollutant exposures in human health studies.