Machine learning-driven identification of air toxic combinations associated with asthma symptoms among elementary school children in Spokane, Washington, USA

Solmaz Amiri, Yan Chak Li, Dedra Buchwald, Gaurav Pandey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Air toxics are atmospheric pollutants with hazardous effects on health and the environment. Although methodological constraints have limited the number of air toxics assessed for associations with health and disease, advances in machine learning (ML) enable the assessment of a much larger set of environmental exposures. We used ML methods to conduct a retrospective study to identify combinations of 109 air toxics associated with asthma symptoms among 269 elementary school students in Spokane, Washington. Data on the frequency of asthma symptoms for these children were obtained from Spokane Public Schools. Their exposure to air toxics was estimated by using the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Toxics Screening Assessment and National Air Toxics Assessment. We defined three exposure periods: the most recent year (2019), the last three years (2017–2019), and the last five years (2014–2019). We analyzed the data using the ML-based Data-driven ExposurE Profile (DEEP) extraction method. DEEP identified 25 air toxic combinations associated with asthma symptoms in at least one exposure period. Three combinations (1,1,1-trichloroethane, 2-nitropropane, and 2,4,6-trichlorophenol) were significantly associated with asthma symptoms in all three exposure periods. Four air toxics (1,1,1-trichloroethane, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, BIS (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and 2,4-dinitrophenol) were associated only in combination with other toxics, and would not have been identified by traditional statistical methods. The application of DEEP also identified a vulnerable subpopulation of children who were exposed to 13 of the 25 significant combinations in at least one exposure period. On average, these children experienced the largest number of asthma symptoms in our sample. By providing evidence on air toxic combinations associated with childhood asthma, our findings may contribute to the regulation of these toxics to improve children's respiratory health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171102
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume921
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Air toxic
  • Childhood asthma
  • Geographic information systems
  • Machine learning
  • Socioeconomic status

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