Time-location analysis for exposure assessment studies of children using a novel global positioning system instrument.

Environ Health Perspect 2003 Jan;111(1):115-22

Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Global positioning system (GPS) technology is used widely for business and leisure activities and offers promise for human time-location studies to evaluate potential exposure to environmental contaminants. In this article we describe the development of a novel GPS instrument suitable for tracking the movements of young children. Eleven children in the Seattle area (2-8 years old) wore custom-designed data-logging GPS units integrated into clothing. Location data were transferred into geographic information systems software for map overlay, visualization, and tabular analysis. Data were grouped into five location categories (in vehicle, inside house, inside school, inside business, and outside) to determine time spent and percentage reception in each location. Additional experiments focused on spatial resolution, reception efficiency in typical environments, and sources of signal interference. Significant signal interference occurred only inside concrete/steel-frame buildings and inside a power substation. The GPS instruments provided adequate spatial resolution (typically about 2-3 m outdoors and 4-5 m indoors) to locate subjects within distinct microenvironments and distinguish a variety of human activities. Reception experiments showed that location could be tracked outside, proximal to buildings, and inside some buildings. Specific location information could identify movement in a single room inside a home, on a playground, or along a fence line. The instrument, worn in a vest or in bib overalls, was accepted by children and parents. Durability of the wiring was improved early in the study to correct breakage problems. The use of GPS technology offers a new level of accuracy for direct quantification of time-location activity patterns in exposure assessment studies.

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241315PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.5350DOI Listing
January 2003
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