Automation of cleaning and reconstructing residential address histories to assign environmental exposures in longitudinal studies

Daniela Fecht*, Kevin Garwood, Oliver Butters, John Henderson, Paul Elliott, Anna L. Hansell, John Gulliver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: We have developed an open-source ALgorithm for Generating Address Exposures (ALGAE) that cleans residential address records to construct address histories and assign spatially-determined exposures to cohort participants. The first application of this algorithm was to construct prenatal and early life air pollution exposure for individuals of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in the South West of England, using previously estimated particulate matter ≤10 μm (PM10) concentrations. Methods: ALSPAC recruited 14 541 pregnant women between 1991 and 1992. We assigned trimester-specific estimated PM10 exposures for 12 752 pregnancies, and first year of life exposures for 12 525 births, based on maternal residence and residential mobility. Results: Average PM10 exposure was 32.6 μg/m3 [standard deviation (S.D.) 3.0 μg/m3] during pregnancy and 31.4 μg/m3 (S.D. 2.6 μg/m3) during the first year of life; 6.7% of women changed address during pregnancy, and 18.0% moved during first year of life of their infant. Exposure differences ranged from -5.3 μg/m3 to 12.4 μg/m3 (up to 26% difference) during pregnancy and -7.22 μg/m3 to 7.64 μg/m3 (up to 27% difference) in the first year of life, when comparing estimated exposure using the address at birth and that assessed using the complete cleaned address history. For the majority of individuals exposure changed by <5%, but some relatively large changes were seen both in pregnancy and in infancy. Conclusions: ALGAE provides a generic and adaptable, open-source solution to clean addresses stored in a cohort contact database and assign life stage-specific exposure estimates with the potential to reduce exposure misclassification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)I49-I56
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (grant ref.: 102215/2/13/2) and the University of Bristol, who provide core support for ALSPAC. The work presented here was specifically funded by the UK Medical Research Council: ‘Effects of early life exposure to particulates on respiratory health through childhood and adolescence: ALSPAC Birth Cohort Study’ (grant ref: G0700920). We thank Bristol City Council for providing data on traffic flows/speeds and emission rates for the ALSPAC study area. P.E. acknowledges support of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Health Impact of Environmental Hazards (HPRU-2012–10141). The work of the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit is funded by Public Health England as part of the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, funded also by the UK Medical Research Council (MR/ L01341X/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association.


  • air pollution
  • cohort studies
  • exposure measurement error
  • pregnancy
  • reproductive health
  • Residential mobility


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