Evaluation and a Predictive Model of Airborne Fungal Concentrations in School Classrooms.

Bartlett KH, Kennedy SM, Brauer M, Van Netten C, Dill B.

School of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada.

Exposure to airborne fungal products may be associated with health effects ranging from non-specific irritation of the respiratory tract or mucus membranes to inflammation provoked by specific fungal antigens. While concentrations of airborne fungi are frequently measured in indoor air quality investigations, the significance of these measurements in the absence of visual mold colonization is unclear. This study was undertaken to evaluate concentrations of airborne fungal concentrations in school classrooms within a defined geographic location in British Columbia, Canada, and to build a model to clarify determinants of airborne fungal concentration. All elementary schools within one school district participated in the study. Classrooms examined varied by age, construction and presence or absence of mechanical ventilation. Airborne fungal propagules were collected inside classrooms and outdoors. Variables describing characteristics of the environment, buildings and occupants were measured and used to construct a predictive model of fungal concentration. The classrooms studied were not visibly contaminated by fungal growth. The data were evaluated using available guidelines. However, the published guidelines did not take into account significant aspects of the local environment. For example, there was a statistically significant effect of season on the fungal concentrations and on the proportional representation of fungal genera. Rooms ventilated by mechanical means had significantly lower geometric mean concentrations than naturally ventilated rooms. Environmental (temperature, outdoor fungal concentration), building (age) and ventilation variables accounted for 58% of the variation in the measured fungal concentrations. A methodology is proposed for the evaluation of airborne fungal concentration data which takes into account local environmental conditions as an aid in the evaluation of fungal bioaerosols in public buildings.

PMID: 15302620 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]