An approach to represent a combined exposure to air pollution
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Health Canada, Ottawa, Canada (Population Studies Division)
Mieczyslaw Szyszkowicz   

Health Canada, 200 Eglantine Driveway, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0K9, Canada
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2015;28(5):823–830
Objectives: The objective of this study was to present a technique for estimating the effect of ambient air pollution mix on health outcomes. Material and Methods: We created a technique of indexing air pollution mix as a cause of the increased odds of health problems. As an illustrative example, we analyzed the impact of pollution on the frequency of emergency department (ED) visits due to colitis among young patients (age < 15 years, N = 11 110). Our technique involves 2 steps. First, we considered 6 ambient air pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and 2 measures of particulate matter) treating each pollutant as a single exposure. Odds ratios (ORs) for ED visits associated with a standard increase (interquartile range – IQR) in the pollutants levels were calculated using the case-crossover technique. The ORs and their 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were also found for lagged exposures (for lags 1–9 days). Second, we defined a Health Air Study Index (HASI) to represent the combined impact of the 6 air pollutants. Results: We obtained positive and statistically significant results for individual air pollutants and among them the following estimations: OR = 1.06 (95% CI: 1.02–1.1, NO2 lag 3, IQR = 12.8 ppb), OR = 1.04 (95% CI: 1.01–1.07, SO2 lag 4, IQR = 2.3 ppb), OR = 1.04 (95% CI: 1–1.06, PM lag 3, IQR = 6.2 μg/m3). Among the re-calculated ORs with the HASI values as an exposure, the highest estimated value was OR = 1.37 (95% CI: 1.12–1.68, for 1 unit of the HASI, lag 3). Conclusions: The proposed index (HASI) allows to confirm the pattern of associations for lags obtained for individual air pollutants. In the presented example the used index (HASI) indicates the strongest relation with the exposure lagged by 3 days.