Incorporating high-dimensional exposure modelling into studies of air pollution and health

  • Yi Liu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Air pollution is an important determinant of health. There is convincing, and growing, evidence linking the risk of disease, and premature death, with exposure to various pollutants including fine particulate matter and ozone. Knowledge about the health and environmental risks and their trends is important stimulus for developing environmental and public health policy. Inorder to perform studies into the risks of environmental hazards on human health study there is a requirement for accurate estimates of exposures that might be experienced by the populations at risk. In this thesis we develop spatio-temporal models within a Bayesian framework to obtain accurate estimates of such exposures. These models are set within a hierarchical framework in a Bayesian setting with different levels describing dependencies over space and time. Considering the complexity of hierarchical models and the large amounts of data that can arise from environmental networks mean that inference using Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) may be computational challenging in this setting. We use both MCMC and Integrated Nested Laplace Approximations (INLA) to implement spatio-temporal exposure models when dealing with high–dimensional data. We also propose an approach for utilising the results from exposure models in health models which allows them to enhance studies of the health effects of air pollution. Moreover, we investigate the possible effects of preferential sampling, where monitoring sites in environmental networks are preferentially located by the designers in orderto assess whether guideline and policies are being adhered to. This means the data arising from such networks may not accurately characterise the spatial-temporal field they intend to monitor and as such will not provide accurate estimates of the exposures that are potentially experienced by populations. This has the potential to introduce bias into estimates of risk associated with exposure to air pollution and subsequent health impact analyses. Throughout the thesis, the methods developed are assessed using simulation studies and applied to real–life case studies assessing the effects of particulate matter on health in Greater London and throughout the UK.
Date of Award15 Apr 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorGavin Shaddick (Supervisor)


  • Bayesian statistics
  • Air pollution
  • Epidemiology
  • MCMC methods
  • INLA

Cite this