Linkage to Natural & Built Environment Data

1km Radon map for the ALSPAC catchment. Contains British Geological Survey materials ©NERC 2017.
Edited 1km Radon map for the ALSPAC catchment. Image credit: Contains British Geological Survey materials ©NERC 2017

ALSPAC have linked to substantial exposure data relating to the natural environment (e.g. air pollution in the Bristol region, Radon exposure estimates) and the built social environment (e.g. neighbourhood socio-demographic indicators, location of fast food outlets). These linkages are made possible by geo-coding ALSPACs longitudinal record of participants’ residential history and school attendance history. This longitudinal geo-coded resource enables:

  1. The linkage of directly measured or modelled natural or built environmental records;
  2. To place participants in their built environment (e.g. to calculate distances to nearest services, or the density of fast food outlets in the area)
  3. To understand the spatial distribution of exposures (e.g. residential proximity to high-voltage power lines) or the spatial variation of participant attributes (e.g. studies spatially mapping genomic heritability estimates and phenotypic outcomes)
  4. To inform statistical methodologies (e.g. using geographies within multi-level modelling).

This resource, how it has been previously used, and how it can be accessed is fully described in our Data Resource Profile: The ALSPAC birth cohort as a platform to study the relationship of environment and health social factors: https://academic.oup.com/ije/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ije/dyz063/5475780

Data Availability (data collected from participants)

ALSPAC have collected individual and household level data relating to residential and school, natural and physical environments: including air pollution concentrations and damp within the home; and neighbourhood safety and the density and location of fast food outlets. The information collected directly from participants includes lead, cadmium and total mercury concentrations in the blood, and an extensive body of genetic data.

Summary of ALSPAC participant reported and study collected measures (PDF, 36kB)

In addition to the array of health and wellbeing information collected directly from participants, ALSPAC have also established linkages to participants’ NHS primary and secondary care health records and are extending this to a range of additional sources.

Platform to support linkage to natural and built environment data in ALSPAC

Through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded ‘Enhancing environmental data Resources in Cohort Studies: ALSPAC exemplar (ERICA)’ award the PEARL data linkage team and collaborators at Imperial University and the University of Leicester, we have:

  • Developed a geocoded database for the ALSPAC cohort, including participant residential addresses across three generations, and G1 index participants school addresses;
  • Implemented the “Utilisation of the Algorithm for Generating Address Exposures (ALGAE)” software - allowing ALSPAC to link geolocated data to participants to calculate individual level exposures at key life stages;
  • Worked with the ALSPAC OCAP participant panel to develop a governance mechanism for using location data in research while protecting participants confidentiality.

Through using the geocoding, the ALGAE software or other linkage processes, to the location research protocol the PEARL team are now able to assist research data users link to location-based data (e.g. air pollution data, noise, temperature records, built environment metrics). Our recent paper provides an illustration of this:

Wellcome Open Research paper - Residential exposure to radon and DNA methylation across the lifecourse: an exploratory study in the ALSPAC birth cohort

The Data Team are able to add routine socio-area metrics (e.g. indices of multiple deprivation (national quintiles), urban-rural status) to your data file on request (subject to approval).

More information can be found on the PEARL data linkage team here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/population-health-sciences/research/groups/pearl/

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