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Open Access Open Badges Research

Estimation of exposure to toxic releases using spatial interaction modeling

Jamison F Conley

Author Affiliations

Department of Geology and Geography, West Virginia University, 330 Brooks Hall, 98 Beechurst Ave., Morgantown, WV, USA, 26506

International Journal of Health Geographics 2011, 10:20  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-20

Published: 21 March 2011



The United States Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data are frequently used to estimate a community's exposure to pollution. However, this estimation process often uses underdeveloped geographic theory. Spatial interaction modeling provides a more realistic approach to this estimation process. This paper uses four sets of data: lung cancer age-adjusted mortality rates from the years 1990 through 2006 inclusive from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database, TRI releases of carcinogens from 1987 to 1996, covariates associated with lung cancer, and the EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model.


The impact of the volume of carcinogenic TRI releases on each county's lung cancer mortality rates was calculated using six spatial interaction functions (containment, buffer, power decay, exponential decay, quadratic decay, and RSEI estimates) and evaluated with four multivariate regression methods (linear, generalized linear, spatial lag, and spatial error). Akaike Information Criterion values and P values of spatial interaction terms were computed. The impacts calculated from the interaction models were also mapped. Buffer and quadratic interaction functions had the lowest AIC values (22298 and 22525 respectively), although the gains from including the spatial interaction terms were diminished with spatial error and spatial lag regression.


The use of different methods for estimating the spatial risk posed by pollution from TRI sites can give different results about the impact of those sites on health outcomes. The most reliable estimates did not always come from the most complex methods.