DOI: 10.1029/2023gh000937 ISSN: 2471-1403

PM2.5 Is Insufficient to Explain Personal PAH Exposure

Lisa M. Bramer, Holly M. Dixon, Diana Rohlman, Richard P. Scott, Rachel L. Miller, Laurel Kincl, Julie B. Herbstman, Katrina M. Waters, Kim A. Anderson
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Epidemiology
  • Global and Planetary Change


To understand how chemical exposure can impact health, researchers need tools that capture the complexities of personal chemical exposure. In practice, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air quality index (AQI) data from outdoor stationary monitors and Hazard Mapping System (HMS) smoke density data from satellites are often used as proxies for personal chemical exposure, but do not capture total chemical exposure. Silicone wristbands can quantify more individualized exposure data than stationary air monitors or smoke satellites. However, it is not understood how these proxy measurements compare to chemical data measured from wristbands. In this study, participants wore daily wristbands, carried a phone that recorded locations, and answered daily questionnaires for a 7‐day period in multiple seasons. We gathered publicly available daily PM2.5 AQI data and HMS data. We analyzed wristbands for 94 organic chemicals, including 53 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Wristband chemical detections and concentrations, behavioral variables (e.g., time spent indoors), and environmental conditions (e.g., PM2.5 AQI) significantly differed between seasons. Machine learning models were fit to predict personal chemical exposure using PM2.5 AQI only, HMS only, and a multivariate feature set including PM2.5 AQI, HMS, and other environmental and behavioral information. On average, the multivariate models increased predictive accuracy by approximately 70% compared to either the AQI model or the HMS model for all chemicals modeled. This study provides evidence that PM2.5 AQI data alone or HMS data alone is insufficient to explain personal chemical exposures. Our results identify additional key predictors of personal chemical exposure.

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