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Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106

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Pesticides exposure modeling based on GIS and remote sensing land

use data
Neng Wan*
University of Utah, Department of Geography, 260 S. Central Campus Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9155, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Exposure to agricultural pesticides has been linked with a variety of public health problems. However,
Available online such investigations were generally restricted by inadequate exposure information and small study areas.
This article presents a GIS approach to generate objective information of population exposure to specific
Keywords: pesticide ingredients for large areas. Specifically, it integrates land use information that was derived from
GIS remote sensing images, population grid data, and county level pesticide usage data to model residential
Pesticide exposure
exposure to pesticides for the entire state of Nebraska. Using Atrazine as an example, this study
Remote sensing
demonstrated how to derive useful indicators of pesticide exposure based on the proposed method and
Atrazine exposure
Environmental health
how to up-scale the information to area levels to match up with public health datasets. The spatial
pattern of exposure to Atrazine in Nebraska was also examined and discussed. This approach has great
potential for assessing exposure to different pesticide ingredients in environment-health studies.
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction can be classified into two categories: occupational exposure and

non-occupational exposure. Occupational exposure happens pri-
The extensive application of pesticides in modern agriculture marily to farmers, pesticide applicators, and their immediate family
has led to growing concerns about their adverse consequences to members (Allpress, Curry, Hanchette, Phillips, & Wilcosky, 2008;
the environment and population health (Pimentel & Greiner, 1997; Blair et al., 1997; Fenske, 2005). In general, farmers and pesticide
Sever, Arbuckle, & Sweeney, 1997). While the environmental con- applicators are easily exposed to pesticides during the working
cerns were primarily about contaminations to water and soil as procedures (e.g., pesticide spraying). The source of exposure for
well as their ecological consequences (Hildebrandt, Guillamo  n, their family members is primarily from items (e.g., clothes, dusts)
Lacorte, Tauler, & Barcelo , 2008), public health researchers that they brought from working places to home. Non-occupational
focused mainly on health problems such as cancer (Alavanja, Ross, exposure happens to individuals who live near farmland or pesti-
& Bonner, 2013), neuro-degenerative diseases (Keifer & Mahurin, cide application sites, as pesticide residuals may drift up to kilo-
1997), and human reproductive problems (Shirangi, meters to residents' homes and activity spaces (Ward et al., 2006).
Nieuwenhuijsen, Vienneau, & Holman, 2011), most of which have This study focuses on non-occupational exposure because it affects
been found to favor farmers and rural residents who live close to larger areas and populations than occupational exposure.
pesticide application sites. Although the pathway through which Although previous studies revealed various levels of association
pesticide application influences human health is largely unknown, between pesticides exposure and health problems, they are limited
it is believed that direct and indirect contact with pesticides caused by pesticides data source and exposure methods (Shirangi et al.,
different levels of poisoning to the human body, which lead to 2011). For example, most studies used patient survey or question-
adverse health situations (Alavanja et al., 2013). naire to collect exposure information, which may lead to mis-
In order to measure pesticideehealth associations as accurate as classifications because of subjects' recall biases (Avruskin, Meliker,
possible, it is necessary to obtain detailed information about the & Jacquez, 2007). Their limited knowledge about the amount of
extent of pesticide exposure for individuals. Exposure to pesticide crops and the temporal change of crop patterns near their homes
may also influence the survey results. In addition, these studies
generally did not specify pesticide ingredients. Since different in-
gredients have different levels of toxicity, it is necessary to under-
* Tel.: þ1 801 585 3972 (office); fax: þ1 801 581 8219.
E-mail address: stand exposure to specific ingredients in exposure-health studies
0143-6228/© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
100 N. Wan / Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106

(Wang et al., 2011). What is more, since most of these studies only (United States Department of Agriculture, 2009). This study focuses
focus on a relatively small area (e.g., a county, or patients from a on Atrazine because it is the top pesticide applied in Nebraska and
single hospital), their findings may not be representative to the also in the United State. Exposure to Atrazine has been linked with a
general population. variety of health problems such as cancer, human reproductive
The increasing availability and precision of satellite remote problems (Saldana et al., 2007; Swan et al., 2003), and birth defects
sensing data have provided another way to monitor pesticide (Agopian, Cai, Langlois, Canfield & Lupo, 2013; De Roos et al., 2003;
exposure for large areas and populations. Since satellite images Van Leeuwen, Waltner-Toews, Abernathy, Smit, & Shoukri, 1999;
contain continuous land use information (e.g., vegetation, water, Zahm et al., 1993). Atrazine, when applied at agricultural fields,
bare soil, and urban land) at resolutions up to meters, they have the could travel up to 1000 m through atmospheric transporting and
potential to infer individuals' proximity to agricultural fields. When precipitation deposition (Mast, Foreman, & Skaates, 2007;
integrated with pesticide usage data within a geographic infor- Thurman & Cromwell, 2000). The long drifting distance along
mation system (GIS), such information could be further processed with the long half-life (i.e., 60 days) of Atrazine makes it a health
to model the exposure at a satisfactory level of accuracy (Nuckols, threat to individuals who live around application sites.
Ward, & Jarup, 2004). In addition, historical remote sensing imag-
eries provide the possibility of recovering pesticide exposure in- Data
formation decades ago, which is especially useful for assessing
exposure duration, a factor that influences chronic diseases such as Investigations in this study involve three major types of data:
Parkinson's Disease (Brody et al., 2001; Cornelis, Schoeters, Kellen, land use data, pesticide usage data, and grid-based population data.
Buntinx, & Zeegers, 2009; Liou et al., 1997). Progresses have been The 2005 Nebraska land use data was compiled by the Center for
made towards this goal in recent decades. For example, Ward et al. Advanced Land Management Information Technologies (CALMIT) at
(2000) used a late summer Landsat 7 image to assess the feasibility the University of Nebraska e Lincoln. This dataset, originally
of this direction. They found that remote sensing data could provide developed to assist the works of agricultural irrigation and soil
adequate information about major crops in a three-county area in protection, was based on Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) imag-
central Nebraska. Maxwell, Airola, and Nuckols (2010) further eries. Specifically, they used 37 such images (taken between May and
assessed the temporal characteristics of spectral signature for September of 2005) that have relatively less cloud. Images under-
different crops, which was subsequently used to link with pesticide went general pre-processes to remove clouded areas and to filter out
use data to model exposure to paraquat in central California urban areas (Dappen, Merchant, Ratcliffe, & Robbins, 2007). Training
(Maxwell, 2011). It is worth noting that these preliminary works data were collected by local Natural Resource Districts across
were limited to small regions due to the lack of ground validation Nebraska during the summer of 2005. Supervised classification with
data, which restricted their applications in large areas and within a maximum likelihood decision rules were used to classify different
large population. In addition, little attention has been paid to crop types and irrigation statuses based on pixel spectral signatures.
deriving exposure information for area units such as census tracts Unsupervised classification was adopted for locations that has only
and counties. For population-based environment-health studies, one-day image and for those with cloud covers. More details of the
health data such as disease incidence are generally aggregated to classification methods can be found in Dappen et al. (2007).
area levels to protect patients' privacy. It is necessary to re-scale the The work by Dappen et al. (2007) classified the crop fields into
exposure data to match with the spatial scale of public health data. 19 categories with an overall accuracy of 83.9%. The classified
The primary purpose of this study is to further explore the agricultural land uses included all types of major crops (e.g., corn,
feasibility of using GIS and remote sensing-derived land use data to soybeans, sugar beets, sorghum, alfalfa, small grains, sunflower)
model pesticide exposure. Being different from previous studies, that are further distinguished as irrigated or dryland (shown in
this study focuses on answering two questions: 1) how to estimate Fig. 1). According to their land use classification results, agricultural
pesticide exposure for large areas (e.g., state level) based on remote lands, including crops, grass land, summer fallow, and other agri-
sensing data, GIS, pesticide usage data, and high resolution popu- cultural land, account for 93% of the overall land of Nebraska. This is
lation data? and 2) how to upscale such information to census units? the exact percentage calculated by the Nebraska Department of
Our method and findings will benefit future works on large-extent, Agriculture (2012). Primary crops in Nebraska include corn (ac-
high-resolution exposure modeling as well as on providing critical counting for 51.4% of all cropland), soybean (27.1% of all cropland),
exposure information for environment-health investigations. small grains (9.5% of all cropland), Alfalfa (8.4% of all cropland), and
sorghum (1.2% of all cropland).
Methodology and data Pesticide usage data of Nebraska were obtained from multiple
sources. The county level Atrazine usage data in 2005 was derived
Study area from the annual agricultural pesticide database at the U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS) (Thelin & Stone, 2013). Specifically, this dataset was
The state of Nebraska, one of the leading agricultural states in the generated by integrating the survey data on pesticide usage of
US, was selected as the study area. Nebraska has 45.6 million acres of proprietary Crop Reporting Districts (CRD) as well as county level
land used as farms and ranches, accounting for 93% of the state's harvested-crop acreage information. Linear interpolation was used
total land area (Nebraska Department of Agriculture, 2012). About to estimate years or counties that do not have specific data sources.
40% of the state population (i.e., 750,000 out of 1.8 million) live in For each pesticide ingredient, the dataset include two indicators of
rural areas (United States Department of Agriculture, 2012), which usage at the county level: EPest-low and EPest-high. EPest-low as-
makes them easily exposed to agricultural fields and pesticides. signs zero value to CRDs that were surveyed but did not provide
Major crops planted in Nebraska include corn, soybean, sorghum, pesticide usage information, while EPest-high estimates pesticide
and alfalfa. These field crops are generally planted in April or May, usage of these CRDs based on values of neighboring CRDs. This study
fully covered in June, July, and harvested in Autumn months adopted EPest-high because it covers more counties in Nebraska.
(Nebraska Agricultural Statistics Service, 2002). Since the USGS data does not provide information about pesti-
The growth of these crops in Nebraska requires extensive ap- cide usage by crop type and irrigation status, such information was
plications of herbicides, among which the most commonly used obtained from historical datasets of Nebraska. The Atrazine usage
ones are Atrazine, Metolachlor, Cyanazine, Alachlor, and Acetochlor data by crop type was derived from the surveys of farmers'
N. Wan / Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106 101

Fig. 1. Land use types of Nebraska in 2005 (Dappen et al., 2007).

pesticide use conducted by the Agricultural Extension Service at the latitudeelongitude grids at the resolution of 30 arc-second (about
University of Nebraska e Lincoln. This data contains information 1000 m at the equator). The SEDAC data was selected to avoid
about acres planted and the total amount of Atrazine usage for irregular unit shapes of census units and to achieve high-resolution
major crops in 1982 and 1987. Similar data for the years of 1992 and exposure information that also could be up-scaled to census units.
1997 were also derived from the pesticide use database at the More details of the population grid data can be found in Balk et al.
National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy (1997). Based on (2006).
the four years' data, the average usages of Atrazine per acre for corn,
sorghum, and small grains, the primary source of Atrazine use in Pesticide exposure modeling
Nebraska, were calculated. Since these datasets do not provide in-
formation about Atrazine usage by irrigation status for each crop, In this study, pesticide exposure modeling primarily follows two
such information was approximated by percent of acreage treated procedures. Since the Atrazine usage data was at the county level,
with herbicides for irrigated type and dryland type of the crop. The the county level usage data was first decomposed to land use pixels
summarized results are listed in Table 1. The traditional application using the land use data and crop/irrigation information. Then,
rate measure was not adopted in this study because it was designed pesticide exposure at the population grid level is calculated using a
to describe acres that are treated with a pesticide, which is not buffer-based exposure model. These two procedures are imple-
available in our data. Seasonal crop fields were not adjusted mented in the following steps:
because most crops in Nebraska were planted for only one season
each year. 1) Within the boundary of each county, search all land use pixels
The population information used in this study was obtained that are classified as the interested crops (i.e., corn, sorghum,
from the 2000 US grid population dataset generated by the SEDAC and small grains in this study) regardless of irrigation status. For
(Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center) project at Columbia pixels that lie across the county boundary, the affiliation is
University (Balk et al., 2006). This dataset was created by allocating determined by the proportion of pixel area that is included in
census block population and household information into regular the county. If the proportion is greater than 50% then the entire
pixel is considered within the county, and vice versa. Then,
Table 1 summarize the number of interested crop pixels for the county
Yearly Atrazine usage per acre by crop type and irrigation status in Nebraska. and calculate the total Atrazine usage for each crop by
Crop Average amount Percent of acreage Percent of acreage
type of atrazine use per treated with herbicides treated with herbicides
acre (lb) for irrigated crop for dryland crop CW
Pci ¼ P i i Pt
Corn 1.112 95.3% 82.7% Ck Wk
Sorghum 0.833 89.5% 90.4%
Small 0.146 24.0% 24.0% where Ci is the number of pixels for the ith crop (i.e., corn, sorghum,
and small grains), Wi is the average pesticide usage of the ith crop
102 N. Wan / Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106

(shown in Table 1), andPt is the total amount of pesticide used for part of the population grid could reach out to 750 m (shown in
the entire county. From the formula, it can be easily understood Fig. 2).
that Pci represents the total pesticide usage for crop i within the
Comparative evaluation
2) For each crop i, calculate the pesticide use for irrigated and
dryland pixels by
To demonstrate the unique information that could be conveyed
by pesticide weighted exposure, this study compared it with two
commonly used exposure indicators: proximity and acreage. Spe-
cifically, a proximity measure determines that an individual or area
CiI WiI þCiD WiD Pci Pci WiI unit is exposed to agricultural pesticide if its location is within a
Pci I ¼ ¼
CiI CiI WiI þ CiD WiD specific distance of agricultural land (Rull & Ritz, 2003); the acreage
measure assumes that exposure level is related with the total
acreage of agricultural lands around the residential location. This
Pci N ¼ P study used the shortest distance of the population grid center from
CiI WiI þ CiD WiD ci
an agricultural pixel as the proximity measure and the total acreage
of agricultural pixels within the 1000-m buffer as the acreage
where CiI andCiD are the number of irrigated and dryland pixels for
measure. Therefore, for each population grid, three exposure in-
crop i, respectively, WiI and WiD are the percent of acreage treated
dicators (i.e., the pesticide weighted exposure indicator proposed in
with Atrazine for irrigated and non-irrigated crop i, respectively
this study, the shortest distance from agriculture field, and the total
(listed in Table 1). Therefore, it could be understood thatPci_I and
acreage of agricultural land within the 1000-m buffer) would be
Pci_D represent the average pesticide use for irrigation and non-
calculated and compared. Since Atrazine is primarily applied for
irrigation pixels, respectively.
three types of crops (i.e., corn, sorghum, and small grains), our
definition of agricultural land in this section includes these crop
3) Create a buffer area for each population grid, search all pixels
types only.
that were classified as one of the three crops within the buffer,
and summarize the amount of estimated Atrazine use. This
summarized number, named pesticide weighted exposure, will Area level upscaling
be used to represent the pesticide exposure for that population
grid. Since 750 m has been suggested as an effective range of Public health data are generally published for large area units
pesticide drifting (Ward et al., 2006), this distance was used to (e.g., county, zip code) to protect the privacy of patients and human
create the buffer area: given that the average side length of subjects. For studies that investigate area level associations be-
population grids are about 1000 m, the radius of the buffer was tween pesticide exposure and health, it is necessary to aggregate
set to be 1000 m (i.e., 750 þ 1000/4) to ensure that the middle the grid-level exposure information to match the area level. In this

Fig. 2. Buffer-based pesticide exposure modeling (note that the green circle has a radius of 250 m, or a quarter of the average side length of the population grid, and the red circle, or
the buffer area, has a radius of 1000 m). (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
N. Wan / Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106 103

article, a population weighted method is designed to ‘up-scale’ the

exposure data to area levels. Specifically, the area level exposure is
calculated as
Popj Expj
Exp ¼ P

where Popj and Expj are the population size and the pesticide
weighted exposure index for the jth population grid within the area
unit, respectively. From the formula, we can see the area level
exposure is estimated as the average exposure of the county pop-
ulation. All exposure modeling steps in this study were imple-
mented using Visual Basic Applications (VBA) in ArcGIS 9.3
(Environmental Systems Research Institute, 2009).
Fig. 4. Pixel level Atrazine usage in Nebraska, 2005 (note: the usage was calculated by
the pesticide weighted method developed in this article; Atrazine usage value was
categorized based on natural breaks; pixels with the value of 0 were distinguished
Results from the first category 0e0.034).

Using the population grid center as the approximate population

location, it is found that 54.4% of the population grids (covering western and north-central regions of the state (which were pri-
54.1% of the total population) had crops planted within the 1000-m marily covered by pasture and grasslands) have almost zero Atra-
buffer. Using 170 acres per square kilometer as the threshold of crop zine application. Areas with high Atrazine use was located the
density for distinguishing significantly high risk of pesticide middle and the eastern regions of the state. It can also be observed
exposure (Ward et al., 2006), it is found that 25.2% of the grids from Fig. 4 that the pattern of Atrazine use is in close accordance
(covering 12.1% of the state population) had significantly high risk with crop distributions and local geographic characteristics. For
of exposure to pesticides. The major crops close to residential pla- example, the Platte river show relatively low Atrazine use
ces were corn and soybean. For Atrazine-related crops, it is found compared to nearby places, exhibiting clear, dark lines that overlap
that 10% of the grid centers (covering 4.1% of the state population) this geographic feature (note: in Fig. 1, the Platte river in Nebraska
had at least 487 acres of corn, sorghum, and small grains planted exhibits as the curved line that starts from the center of the western
within the buffer, suggesting that only a limited portion of the state border of the state, running through Kearney, and ending in Omaha,
population were at significantly high risk of Atrazine exposure the river ‘cuts’ the entire state into northern and southern parts).
(note: 487 acres was calculated for the buffer area of a population The group of curvy patterns to the north of Kearney also reflect the
grid based on the threshold value of 170 acres per square farming pattern along the branches of Plattes river.
kilometer). Fig. 5 shows the population grid level exposure to Atrazine
Fig. 3 shows the county level pattern of Atrazine use (EPest- based on the proposed exposure model. Generally, the spatial
high) in Nebraska in 2005. As shown in the figure, high usage areas pattern of Atrazine exposure is similar to the Atrazine usage pattern
were primarily concentrated in the central-eastern part of the state shown in Fig. 4: residents in the central northern region and those
where the major crops were planted. The pixel level pesticide usage in metropolitan Omaha and metropolitan Lincoln experienced no
map for corn, small grains, and sorghum is shown in Fig. 4. It is exposure; individuals in the central eastern region faced much
obvious that the pixel level map, although exhibiting a similar higher levels of Atrazine exposure. An examination of the two
overall pattern as the county map, contains more details (e.g., metropolitan areas indicates that there is a smoothing transition
boundaries, density) about local variations of Atrazine usage. from zero / medium / high level of exposure from the city center
Overall, areas with high density of corn, sorghum, and small grains to suburban areas and to rural areas. This pattern suggests that, in
were also with high level of Atrazine usage. The metropolitan
centers of Omaha and Lincoln as well as a majority of the north-

Fig. 5. Exposure to Atrazine in Nebraska in 2005 (note: this is a population grid level
Fig. 3. County level Atrazine usage in Nebraska, 2005. map generated by the pesticide weighted exposure model developed in this study;
Data source: USGS (Thelin & Stone, 2013); Atrazine usage was categorized based on exposure to Atrazine was categorized based on natural breaks; pixels with the value of
natural breaks. 0 were distinguished from the first category 0e31.2).
104 N. Wan / Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106

Fig. 6. Comparison between the pesticide weighted measure with the distance (a) and the acreage (b) measures.

addition to rural residents, suburban residents in Nebraska were and designing intervention strategies to prevent the exposure. The
also facing certain levels of Atrazine exposure. lack of large-area exposure information hinders such in-
Fig. 6 shows the comparison results between the pesticide vestigations. To address this challenge, this study developed a
weighted model and the two traditional methods (i.e., the shortest method that takes advantage of GIS, land use information derived
distance to the nearby crop and the total acreage of crops within the from remote sensing data, population data, and county level
1000-m buffer). All three indicators were normalized so that their pesticide use information to estimate population exposure to
value ranges between 0 and 1. The values of the shortest distance agricultural pesticides. This method is then used to assess exposure
indicator were reversed so that a smaller value corresponds to to Atrazine across the entire state of Nebraska. To the best of the
lower level of exposure. It can be observed from the figure that the author's knowledge, this study is among the first endeavors to
proposed model yields pesticide exposure indicator that is smaller examine state level yet high-resolution patterns of pesticide
than the proximity and the acreage measures. The Pearson corre- exposure. Compared to previous studies that use remote sensing
lation coefficient is 0.86 between the pesticide weighted model and data to model pesticide exposure, our land use classification data
the acreage measure and 0.55 between the pesticide weighted not only covers a larger area (i.e., the entire state of Nebraska), but
model and the proximity measure, suggesting that pesticide also has higher spatial resolution (i.e., 30 m compared to more than
weighted exposure is more related with acreage than with 60 m), more crop categories (i.e., 11 crops that are further classified
proximity. as irrigated and dryland, compared to less than 6 crop types), and
Fig. 7 shows the county level pattern of Atrazine exposure which higher classification accuracy. The up-scaling strategy makes this
is up-scaled from the exposure data of population grids. As shown method especially suitable for area level epidemiological
in the map, counties with high level of exposure (i.e., those with investigations.
average exposure greater than 35 kg) were primarily located in the The analyses indicate that 4.1% (n ¼ 70,162) of the state popu-
eastern regions of the state. The western parts were with much lation was at significantly high risk of Atrazine exposure. Consid-
lower level of exposure risk. Note that this pattern is much different ering all types of crops and all types of pesticides, this proportion
from the county level Atrazine usage map shown in Fig. 3. This could rise to 12.1% (n ¼ 207,063). This fact suggests that pesticide
difference indicates the importance of GIS modeling in pesticide exposure is not negligible in Nebraska. Taking advantage of GIS, the
exposure analysis. proposed method could estimate the overall exposure information
and explore local variations about the exposure based on the data
Discussion of multiple herbicides and insecticides. For example, the data
processing procedures could be repeated for the five major herbi-
Understanding population exposure to agricultural pesticides is cides and other major insecticides to generate an overall exposure
important for evaluating the adverse health effects of the exposure index. The results will reveal a more complete picture of pesticides
exposure in Nebraska. Since this topic is beyond the scope of this
study, it will be subject to future research.
In this article, it is found that, similar to rural residents, some
non-rural residents were also exposed to Atrazine. As shown in
Fig. 5, only a small portion of the OmahaeLincoln metropolitan area
has zero exposure to Atrazine. Sub-urban areas around the
metropolitan centers suffer various levels of exposure that could be
as high as 90 kg. Since the three counties (i.e., Douglas, Lancaster,
and Sarpy) where the metropolitan area lies hold more than 53% of
the state population (US Census Bureau, 2011), this fact deserves
special attention, as the exposure problem may affect a large
number of individuals.
The use of SEDAC population grid allows us to examine exposure
at a spatial resolution (i.e., about 1 km) that is higher than that of
census units. This spatial resolution could be even higher if we
generate a denser grid for the modeling in Fig. 2. This is especially
important for exposure analysis of rural areas, for which the census
units are generally very large. Although the grids could be larger
Fig. 7. County level average exposure to Atrazine in Nebraska, 2005 (note: average
exposure was categorized based on natural breaks). than a census tract, this situation only occurs for metropolitan
N. Wan / Applied Geography 56 (2015) 99e106 105

census tracts for which the exposure is always close to zero. It is which are primarily influenced by accumulated exposure (Rull &
also worth noting that the entire methodology is easily trans- Ritz, 2003). Second, this study did not consider the influences
ferrable to exposure estimation at the individual level. One only from pesticide application on state boundaries from neighbor
needs to change the population grid center to an individual's res- states. This may slightly influence the results shown in Figs. 4 and 5.
idential address. In this case, the exposure index should be more In conclusion, this study presents a GIS approach to estimate
accurate than the grid-based one because the buffer area is more high-resolution information of exposure to agricultural pesticides
accurate for that individual. This adaptability of the method makes for large areas. This proposed method revealed more complete
it especially appropriate for caseecontrol studies on pesticide- information about pesticide exposure than traditional exposure
health investigations. models and showed great potential in investigating pesticides-
In another study, Rull and Ritz (2003) used the California related health problems. The GIS-based exposure modeling, along
pesticide use report data and the land-use survey data, which with the approach of state-wide land use classification by Dappen
enabled them to estimate pesticide exposure at better accuracy et al. (2007), provide a feasible template for other states to
than most remote-sensing based studies. However, this practice generate useful pesticide indicators for the fields of public health,
could not be replicated for other states because California is the ecology, and environment management.
only state that collects detailed pesticide use data. Remote sensing
data and county level pesticide use data, on the other hand, could Conflicts of interest
be obtained for most years and for most areas, which makes them
suitable for estimating small-scale and multi-year exposure for The author identifies no conflicts of interest in this work.
most states. The major concern of remote sensing based methods is
that the current supervised classification relies heavily on ground Acknowledgments
training data. However, the development of unsupervised classifi-
cation methods, which rely much less on training samples The author would like to thank 1) the two anonymous reviewers
(Maxwell, 2011), may minimize the influence of this limitation. for their thoughtful suggestions on revising the paper; 2) the
The implications of this study in environmental health studies CALMIT center at the University of Nebraska e Lincoln for providing
primarily lie in two aspects. First, the exposure model could be the land use data; 3) Dr. Ge Lin from the University of Nebraska
applied on other pesticide ingredients such as Alachlor to generate Medical Center, College of Public Health for providing valuable
a complete database of pesticide exposure in Nebraska, which will suggestions on earlier drafts of the paper; and 4) Kytt MacManus
provide a unique environmental background for analyzing envi- from the Columbia University for providing assistance on the
ronmental determinants of health problems such as cancer, neuro- SEDAC data.
degenerative diseases, and birth problems at the state level. Pre-
vious studies that link pesticide exposure with these health prob- References
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discover new dimensions of pesticide-health associations, which residential atrazine exposure and risk for choanal atresia and stenosis in
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