Introducing the Gateway Environmental Exposome Dashboard
Written by: Sara Adar
Published on: Feb 06, 2024
We are pleased to announce the launch of the Gateway to Global Aging Data project’s new Environmental Exposome Dashboard. This Dashboard showcases the harmonized environmental measures that we are linking to surveys within the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) International Network of Studies. These measures will help researchers to better understand how the environments where people live, work, and socialize impact their aging trajectories.
On the Dashboard, users can easily access detailed descriptions of harmonized measures of the environment for the Gateway to Global Aging Data project including:
- Total and source-specific fine particulate matter air pollution (PM2.5): These are extremely small particles that can be found suspended in air because of emissions from sources including fossil fuel combustion, traffic, industry, and fires. PM2.5 is of interest for human health as inhalation of these particles can initiate inflammation, oxidative stress, vascular changes, and autonomic imbalance. These changes can ultimately impact health by increasing the risk of chronic diseases, cognitive declines, and death.
- Nitrogen dioxide air pollution (NO2): NO2 is a gas commonly found in urban air that is generated by the combustion of fuel. It is mostly generated by the transportation sector but also by power plants and industrial manufacturing. Because of this, NO2 is commonly used as an indicator of the mixture of pollutants generated by the transportation sector and traffic in urban areas. NO2 is of interest since it has been associated with adverse health effects in numerous epidemiology studies.
- Ground-level ozone (O3): In the upper atmosphere, O3 is a gas that benefits the planet and human health. However, in the lower atmosphere, O3 is a highly reactive gas that can be harmful to human health. It is formed when emissions from sources including cars and industry react together in the presence of sunlight and heat. Exposures to O3 are linked to poor health and it is suspected that breathing in O3 at the same time as other pollutants is especially harmful.
- Green and blue spaces: These two measures are used to reflect human exposure to nature and natural settings. Exposure to nature, including vegetated areas like forests, parks, and gardens as well as spaces near water bodies like lakes, rivers, and oceans, is believed to have strong health benefits from promoting exercise, social engagement, and reduced stress. These natural spaces may also provide protection from other environmental stressors including air pollution and extreme heat exposure.
- Light at Night: Light at night captures the brightness of the earth’s surface as measured by satellite. As such, it is understood to be an indicator of human activity. Light at night is of scientific interest for aging populations as it may disrupt circadian rhythms and interfere with sleep. It is also used by some economists as an indicator of wealth in low- and middle-income countries.
The distributions of these measures in populations of several HRS-INS survey countries including Brazil (ELSI), Chile (SPS), England (ELSA), India (LASI), Ireland (TILDA), Northern Ireland (NICOLA), and the United States (HRS) can be found on the Environmental Exposome Dashboard (as is shown below for PM2.5). These graphics are intended to help users better understand the within- and between-country variation expected across the surveys.
The Dashboard also features time-varying maps to visualize how these measures vary across time and space.
We hope that our new Environmental Exposome Dashboard and associated user guide will be helpful in planning research on environmental exposures and aging within the context of the HRS-INS. If you have any questions about these data, feel free to contact us at email@example.com!
- Sara Adar is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health