Evaluating environmental modeling and sampling data with biomarker data to identify sources and routes of exposure

Hyeong Moo Shin, Thomas E. McKone, Deborah H Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Exposure to environmental chemicals results from multiple sources, environmental media, and exposure routes. Ideally, modeled exposures should be compared to biomonitoring data. This study compares the magnitude and variation of modeled polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) exposures resulting from emissions to outdoor and indoor air and estimated exposure inferred from biomarker levels. Outdoor emissions result in both inhalation and food-based exposures. We modeled PAH intake doses using U.S. EPA's 2002 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) county-level emissions data for outdoor inhalation, the CalTOX model for food ingestion (based on NATA emissions), and indoor air concentrations from field studies for indoor inhalation. We then compared the modeled intake with the measured urine levels of hydroxy-PAH metabolites from the 2001-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) survey as quantifiable human intake of PAH parent-compounds. Lognormal probability plots of modeled intakes and estimated intakes inferred from biomarkers suggest that a primary route of exposure to naphthalene, fluorene, and phenanthrene for the U.S. population is likely inhalation from indoor sources. For benzo(a)pyrene, the predominant exposure route is likely from food ingestion resulting from multi-pathway transport and bioaccumulation due to outdoor emissions. Multiple routes of exposure are important for pyrene. We also considered the sensitivity of the predicted exposure to the proportion of the total naphthalene production volume emitted to the indoor environment. The comparison of PAH biomarkers with exposure variability estimated from models and sample data for various exposure pathways supports that both indoor and outdoor models are needed to capture the sources and routes of exposure to environmental contaminants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-155
Number of pages8
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Biomarker
  • Environmental modeling
  • Exposure routes
  • Food intake
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Environmental Science(all)


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