Estimating climate change-related impacts on outdoor air pollution infiltration


Background: Rising temperatures due to climate change are expected to impact human adaptive response, including changes to home cooling and ventilation patterns. These changes may affect air pollution exposures via alteration in residential air exchange rates, affecting indoor infiltration of outdoor particles. We conducted a field study examining associations between particle infiltration and temperature to inform future studies of air pollution health effects.

Methods: We measured indoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Atlanta in 60 homes (810 sampling-days). Indoor-outdoor sulfur ratios were used to estimate particle infiltration, using central site outdoor sulfur concentrations. Linear and mixed-effects models were used to examine particle infiltration ratio-temperature relationships, based on which we incorporated projected meteorological values (Representative Concentration Pathways intermediate scenario RCP 4.5) to estimate particle infiltration ratios in 20-year future (2046-2065) and past (1981-2000) scenarios.

Results: The mean particle infiltration ratio in Atlanta was 0.70 ± 0.30, with a 0.21 lower ratio in summer compared to transition seasons (spring, fall). Particle infiltration ratios were 0.19 lower in houses using heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems compared to those not using HVAC. We observed significant associations between particle infiltration ratios and both linear and quadratic models of ambient temperature for homes using natural ventilation and those using HVAC. Future temperature was projected to increase by 2.1 °C in Atlanta, which corresponds to an increase of 0.023 (3.9%) in particle infiltration ratios during cooler months and a decrease of 0.037 (6.2%) during warmer months.

Discussion: We estimated notable changes in particle infiltration ratio in Atlanta for different 20-year periods, with differential seasonal patterns. Moreover, when stratified by HVAC usage, increases in future ambient temperature due to climate change were projected to enhance seasonal differences in PM2.5 infiltration in Atlanta. These analyses can help minimize exposure misclassification in epidemiologic studies of PM2.5, and provide a better understanding of the potential influence of climate change on PM2.5 health effects.

Authors: Donghai Liang, Wan-Chen Lee, Jiawen Liao, Joy Lawrence, Jack M Wolfson, Stefanie T Ebelt, Choong-Min Kang, Petros Koutrakis, Jeremy A Sarnat
; Full Source: Environmental research 2021 Mar 8;196:110923. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.110923.