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University of Louisville

Superfund Research Program

Characterizing Urban- and Finer-Scale Spatial Variability for Select VOC Superfund Compounds

Project Leader: Jay Robert Turner (Washington University in St. Louis)
Co-Investigators: Steven Conrad Hankey (Virginia Tech), Russell A. Barnett, Brent James Williams (Washington University in St. Louis)
Grant Number: P42ES023716
Funding Period: 2017-2022

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Project Summary (2017-2022)

Hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOC) have adverse impacts on human health. These compounds likely exhibit high spatial variability in urban areas because of the numerous emission sources (e.g. industrial, commercial, residential, traffic) and complex dispersion patterns. Thus, tools are needed to characterize the small-area variation of intra-urban VOC concentrations. Land use regression (LUR) modeling is a powerful tool for assessing spatial variability. It relies upon ambient measurements at a large number of sites and has been extensively used for pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

However, relatively few studies have built LUR models for VOCs and in most cases the focus was traffic related emissions of benzene and other compounds emitted by vehicles. Mobile platform measurements have been used to collect air quality data for LUR model-building, but mobile monitoring of VOCs has not been used in LUR modeling because of measurement challenges.

This research team within the University of Louisville Superfund Research Program (UL SRP) Center is developing a portable VOC monitor suitable for mobile platform measurements. They are also conducting field studies at urban- and neighborhood scales. They are using the VOC data to construct a land use regression model to quantify the small-area variation of intra-urban ambient VOC concentrations. A large number of predictor variables are being examined including but not limited to industrial sources, traffic, and housing density as a proxy for residential emissions.

The researchers are also using LUR results to predict residential level outdoor VOC exposures for participants in the Louisville Healthy Heart Study. These estimates will be used to assess the determinants for cardiometabolic disease progression in the study population.

This project is closely coupled to the Center’s primary objective to examine cardiometabolic effects of exposure to VOC Superfund chemicals. It also has broader impacts on air quality monitoring and exposure assessment.

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