Geospatial relationships of air pollution and acute asthma events across the Detroit-Windsor international border: Study design and preliminary results


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Abstract

The Geospatial Determinants of Health Outcomes Consortium (GeoDHOC) study investigated ambient air quality across the international border between Detroit, Michigan, USA and Windsor, Ontario, Canada and its association with acute asthma events in 5- to 89-year-old residents of these cities. NO2, SO2, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were measured at 100 sites, and particulate matter (PM) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at 50 sites during two 2-week sampling periods in 2008 and 2009. Acute asthma event rates across neighborhoods in each city were calculated using emergency room visits and hospitalizations and standardized to the overall age and gender distribution of the population in the two cities combined. Results demonstrate that intra-urban air quality variations are related to adverse respiratory events in both cities. Annual 2008 asthma rates exhibited statistically significant positive correlations with total VOCs and total benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) at 5-digit zip code scale spatial resolution in Detroit. In Windsor, NO2, VOCs, and PM10 concentrations correlated positively with 2008 asthma rates at a similar 3-digit postal forward sortation area scale. The study is limited by its coarse temporal resolution (comparing relatively short term air quality measurements to annual asthma health data) and interpretation of findings is complicated by contrasts in population demographics and health-care delivery systems in Detroit and Windsor.

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