Developing high-resolution PM2.5 exposure models by integrating low-cost sensors, automated machine learning, and big human mobility data

Manzhu Yu, Shiyan Zhang, Kai Zhang, Junjun Yin, Matthew Varela, Jiheng Miao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Traditional methods to estimate exposure to PM2.5 (particulate matter with less than 2.5 µm in diameter) have typically relied on limited regulatory monitors and do not consider human mobility and travel. However, the limited spatial coverage of regulatory monitors and the lack of consideration of mobility limit the ability to capture actual air pollution exposure. Methods: This study aims to improve traditional exposure assessment methods for PM2.5 by incorporating the measurements from a low-cost sensor network (PurpleAir) and regulatory monitors, an automated machine learning modeling framework, and big human mobility data. We develop a monthly-aggregated hourly land use regression (LUR) model based on automated machine learning (AutoML) and assess the model performance across eight metropolitan areas within the US. Results: Our results show that integrating low-cost sensor with regulatory monitor measurements generally improves the AutoML-LUR model accuracy and produces higher spatial variation in PM2.5 concentration maps compared to using regulatory monitor measurements alone. Feature importance analysis shows factors highly correlated with PM2.5 concentrations, including satellite aerosol optical depth, meteorological variables, vegetation, and land use. In addition, we incorporate human mobility data on exposure estimates regarding where people visit to identify spatiotemporal hotspots of places with higher risks of exposure, emphasizing the need to consider both visitor numbers and PM2.5 concentrations when developing exposure reduction strategies. Discussion: This research provides important insights for further public health studies on air pollution by comprehensively assessing the performance of AutoML-LUR models and incorporating human mobility into considering human exposure to air pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1223160
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)

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