The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): A Resource for Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants
Because human activities impact the timing, location, and degree of pollutant exposure, they play a key role in explaining exposure variation. This fact has motivated the collection of activity pattern data for their specific use in exposure assessments. The largest of these recent efforts is the National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS), a two-year probability-based telephone survey (n = 9,386) of exposure-related human activities in the United States sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The primary purpose of NHAPS was to provide comprehensive and current exposure information over broad geographical and temporal scales, particularly for use in probabilistic population exposure models.
NHAPS was conducted on a virtually daily basis from late September 1992 through September 1994 by the University of Maryland's Survey Research Center using a computer-assisted telephone interview instrument (CATI) to collect 24-hour retrospective diaries and answers to a number of personal and exposure related questions from each respondent. The resulting diary records contain beginning and ending times for each distinct combination of location and activity occurring on the diary day (i.e., each microenvironment). Between 340 and 1713 respondents of all ages were interviewed in each of the 10 EPA regions across the 48 contiguous states. Interviews were completed in 63% of the households contacted.
NHAPS respondents reported spending an average of 87% of their time in enclosed buildings and about 6% of their time in enclosed vehicles. These proportions are fairly constant across the various regions of the United States and Canada and for the California population between the late 1980's, when the California Air Resources Board sponsored a state-wide activity pattern study, and the mid-1990's, when NHAPS was conducted. However, the number of people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in California seems to have decreased over the same time period, where exposure is determined by the reported time spent with a smoker. In both California and the entire nation, the most time spent exposed to ETS was reported to take place in residential locations.