Geography & Environment Publications

Assessing the Distribution of Volatile Organic Compounds Using Land Use Regression in Sarnia, "Chemical Valley", Ontario, Canada

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Environmental Health

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Background: Land use regression (LUR) modelling is proposed as a promising approach to meet some of the challenges of assessing the intra-urban spatial variability of ambient air pollutants in urban and industrial settings. However, most of the LUR models to date have focused on nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. This study aimed at developing LUR models to predict BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m/p-xylene and o-xylene) concentrations in Sarnia, 'Chemical Valley', Ontario, and model the intra-urban variability of BTEX compounds in the city for a community health study.

Method: Using Organic Vapour Monitors, pollutants were monitored at 39 locations across the city of Sarnia for 2 weeks in October 2005. LUR models were developed to generate predictor variables that best estimate BTEX concentrations.

Results: Industrial area, dwelling counts, and highways adequately explained most of the variability of BTEX concentrations (R2: 0.78 – 0.81). Correlations between measured BTEX compounds were high (> 0.75). Although most of the predictor variables (e.g. land use) were similar in all the models, their individual contributions to the models were different.

Conclusion: Yielding potentially different health effects than nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, modelling other air pollutants is essential for a better understanding of the link between air pollution and health. The LUR models developed in these analyses will be used for estimating outdoor exposure to BTEX for a larger community health study aimed at examining the determinants of health in Sarnia.

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