Empirical Bayes Gaussian likelihood estimation of exposure distributions from pooled samples in human biomonitoring

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4999-5014
Journal / PublicationStatistics in Medicine
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


Human biomonitoring of exposure to environmental chemicals is important. Individual monitoring is not viable because of low individual exposure level or insufficient volume of materials and the prohibitive cost of taking measurements from many subjects. Pooling of samples is an efficient and cost-effective way to collect data. Estimation is, however, complicated as individual values within each pool are not observed but are only known up to their average or weighted average. The distribution of such averages is intractable when the individual measurements are lognormally distributed, which is a common assumption. We propose to replace the intractable distribution of the pool averages by a Gaussian likelihood to obtain parameter estimates. If the pool size is large, this method produces statistically efficient estimates, but regardless of pool size, the method yields consistent estimates as the number of pools increases. An empirical Bayes (EB) Gaussian likelihood approach, as well as its Bayesian analog, is developed to pool information from various demographic groups by using a mixed-effect formulation. We also discuss methods to estimate the underlying mean-variance relationship and to select a good model for the means, which can be incorporated into the proposed EB or Bayes framework. By borrowing strength across groups, the EB estimator is more efficient than the individual group-specific estimator. Simulation results show that the EB Gaussian likelihood estimates outperform a previous method proposed for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys with much smaller bias and better coverage in interval estimation, especially after correction of bias.

Research Area(s)

  • Bias correction, Biomonitoring, Empirical Bayes estimation, Gaussian likelihood, Lognormal distribution, Pooled samples

Bibliographic Note

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