Environmental Exposure Assessment

Environmental Exposure Assessment

A primary goal of our research is to create new exposure assessment methods that can be applied to large-scale epidemiological studies to better understand the relationships between environmental exposures and human health.

These include the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), new monitor based approaches, image-based deep learning methods, and large-scale data science approaches.

exposure framework

Technology and environmental exposure assessment

Assessing individual exposures over long time-periods has been a major challenge in environmental epidemiology, but new technologies and related advances in data science hold great potential to improve personalized environmental exposure estimates. We are developing new exposure assessment methods and applying these to a variety of epidemiological studies.

Global model of traffic air pollution

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) offer unprecedented opportunity to conduct spatial exposure assessment. We have developed a global model for traffic air pollution using a land-use regression prediction method that estimates nitrogen dioxide levels at a 100x100 meter resolution for every location in the world. These data are available at Resources and Data.

streetview image

Street-view image-based exposure methods

The emergence of ubiquitous geo-referenced imagery (e.g. Google Street View imagery), combined with advances in image processing using deep learning algorithms, offers unprecedented opportunity for assessing built environment exposures. We have several ongoing studies that are developing new built environment feature measures and applying to large epidemiology studies.


Perceptions of the built environment

Quantifying perceptions of the built environment is central to understanding how different built environment features influence health. For example, if a park is not viewed as safe it will not be used.  We are leveraging crowd-sourced data on perceptions of urban beauty, safety, and liveliness to better understand the relationships between these perceptions and built environment features.

Representative Publications

Hystad, P, Davies, H, Frank L, Gehring U, Tamburic L, Brauer M. Residential Greenness and Birth Outcomes: Distinguishing Effects from Spatially Correlated Built Environment Factors. Environmental Health Perspectives. doi:10.1289/ehp.1308049



Hystad, P., Demers, P., Johnson, K.C., Brook, J., van Donkelaar, A., Lamsal., L., Martin, R., Brauer, M. (2012). Spatiotemporal air pollution exposure assessment for a Canadian population-based lung cancer case-control study. Environmental Health. 11:22. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-22 (Highly accessed)



Brauer, M., Hystad, P. (2014). Invited Commentary: Cities and Health…let me count the ways. Epidemiology. 25(4):526-7. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000110.