Environ Res 2018 05 22;163:16-25. Epub 2018 Feb 22.
School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059, Australia.
Assessing historical exposure to air pollution in epidemiological studies is often problematic because of limited spatial and temporal measurement coverage. Several methods for modelling historical exposures have been described, including land-use regression (LUR). Satellite-based LUR is a recent technique that seeks to improve predictive ability and spatial coverage of traditional LUR models by using satellite observations of pollutants as inputs to LUR. Few studies have explored its validity for assessing historical exposures, reflecting the absence of historical observations from popular satellite platforms like Aura (launched mid-2004). We investigated whether contemporary satellite-based LUR models for Australia, developed longitudinally for 2006-2011, could capture nitrogen dioxide (NO) concentrations during 1990-2005 at 89 sites around the country. We assessed three methods to back-extrapolate year-2006 NO predictions: (1) 'do nothing' (i.e., use the year-2006 estimates directly, for prior years); (2) change the independent variable 'year' in our LUR models to match the years of interest (i.e., assume a linear trend prior to year-2006, following national average patterns in 2006-2011), and; (3) adjust year-2006 predictions using selected historical measurements. We evaluated prediction error and bias, and the correlation and absolute agreement of measurements and predictions using R and mean-square error R (MSE-R), respectively. We found that changing the year variable led to best performance; predictions captured between 41% (1991; MSE-R = 31%) and 80% (2003; MSE-R = 78%) of spatial variability in NO in a given year, and 76% (MSE-R = 72%) averaged over 1990-2005. We conclude that simple methods for back-extrapolating prior to year-2006 yield valid historical NO estimates for Australia during 1990-2005. These results suggest that for the time scales considered here, satellite-based LUR has a potential role to play in long-term exposure assessment, even in the absence of historical predictor data.