Background: Decision making regarding air pollution can be better informed if air quality impacts are traced back to individual emission sources. Adjoint or backward sensitivity analysis is a modeling tool that can achieve this goal by allowing for quantification of how emissions from sources in different locations influence human health metrics. Objectives: We attributed short-term mortality (valuated as an overall "health benefit") in Canada and the United States to anthropogenic nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions across North America. Methods: We integrated epidemiological data derived from Canadian and U.S. time-series studies with the adjoint of an air quality model and also estimated influences of anthropogenic emissions at each location on nationwide health benefits. Results: We found significant spatiotemporal variability in estimated health benefit influences of NOx and VOC emission reductions on Canada and U.S. mortality. The largest estimated influences on Canada (up to $250,000/day) were from emissions originating in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor, where population centers are concentrated. Estimated influences on the United States tend to be widespread and more substantial owing to both larger emissions and larger populations. The health benefit influences calculated using 24-hr average ozone (O3) concentrations are lower in magnitude than estimates calculated using daily 1-hr maximum O3 concentrations. Conclusions: Source specificity of the adjoint approach provides valuable information for guiding air quality decision making. Adjoint results suggest that the health benefits of reducing NOx and VOC emissions are substantial and highly variable across North America.

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Keywords Adjoint sensitivity analysis, Health benefits, Nitrogen dioxide, Ozone mortality, Source attribution
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Journal Environmental Health Perspectives
Joy Pappin, A. (Amanda), & Hakami, A. (2013). Source attribution of health benefits from air pollution abatement in Canada and the United States: An adjoint sensitivity analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 121(5), 572–579. doi:10.1289/ehp.1205561