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Exploratory spatial analysis of the distribution of historic residential radon levels in Pennsylvania

Chen, Qingwen (2019) Exploratory spatial analysis of the distribution of historic residential radon levels in Pennsylvania. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is a known human carcinogen. Geological radon exposure happens mainly through cracks and openings in the ground due to underlying geological formations. There are known cases of high residential radon levels in the state of Pennsylvania (PA), USA. We conducted exploratory data analysis of 1.08 million residential radon level measurements conducted by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) between 1989 and 2017, to gain insights into the spatial distribution of residential radon levels while also examining the areal county-level relationship between residential radon concentrations and mortality rates due to lung cancer. We used mixture modeling to identify different categories of radon levels and analyze their distribution over space, time and types of measurement. Using ordinary kriging, we generated overall radon exposure landscapes via geostatistical interpolation. We also conducted global spatial clustering analysis and marked point pattern analysis. Finally, we conducted spatial regression analysis to test for any association between county radon levels and Pennsylvania age-adjusted mortality rates due to lung cancer. Our geostatistical predictions indicate that locations in Pennsylvania on certain physiographic provinces, such as Great Valley and Blue Mountain Sections, are prone to high residential radon levels. However, we did not find significant association between residential radon concentrations and Pennsylvania mortality rates due to lung cancer in our study. The public health significance of this thesis is to map the spatial distribution of historic residential radon concentrations, and test the relationship between county radon levels and Pennsylvania mortality rates due to lung cancer. As a result of this analysis, we recommend that local governments in the counties where the residential radon concentrations are consistently high, such as York, Lebanon, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Berks, conduct further investigation into radon levels. In addition, we suggest that further studies explore the relationship between indoor radon levels and lung cancer after controlling for the impact of tobacco smoking and other potential confounders.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chen, QingwenQIC38@pitt.eduQIC380000-0002-2946-4947
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorPyne,
Committee MemberBuchanich,
Committee MemberYuan,
Date: 4 March 2019
Defense Date: 18 April 2019
Approval Date: 24 June 2019
Submission Date: 4 April 2019
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 70
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Biostatistics
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Spatial Analysis
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2019 17:51
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2019 17:51


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