, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 93–106 | Cite as

Dustborne fungi in large office buildings

  • Hsing Jasmine Chao
  • Donald K. Milton
  • Joel Schwartz
  • Harriet A. Burge


Fungi are ubiquitous in our daily environments. However, their effects on office workers' health are of great interest to many environmental health researchers. Dust has been considered an important reservoir of indoor fungi from which aerosolization and exposure could occur. We have examined the characteristics of dustborne fungal populations recovered from floors and chairs in office buildings. We investigated twenty-one offices in four office buildings in Boston, MA over a year beginning May 1997. We conducted intensive environmental sampling every six weeks to measure culturable dustborne fungi from floors and chairs, surface dust levels and water activity in carpeting. Carbon dioxide, temperature, and relative humidity were monitored continuously. Concentrations of total dustborne fungi recovered from floors were positively related to carbon dioxide (β = 0.00064; p-value = 0.0002) and temperatures between 20 and 22.5 °C (p-value = 0.0026). Also, total fungal concentrations in floors gradually increased over the year (p-value = 0.0028). Total fungi recovered from chairs varied significantly by season (p-value < 0.0001),highest in September and lowest in March, and were positively correlated with dust loads in floors (β = 0.25; p-value < 0.0001). We used principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce various observed fungal species to fewer factors. Six groups(PCA factors) were obtained for dustborne fungi recovered from both floors and chairs. The models of the first PCA factors for both floors and chairs were similar to those for total fungal concentrations. The results of this study provide essential information to further evaluate the effects of dustborne fungi on office workers' health.

dustborne fungi indoor environmental quality office environments 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Burge HA. The fungi: how they grow and their effects on human health. Heating/Piping/Air Conditioning 1997; 1997: 69–74.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Burge H. Bioaerosols: prevalence and health effects in the indoor environment. Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology 1990; 86(5): 687–701.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Burge HA. Indoor air and infectious disease. Occupational Medicine 1989; 4(4): 713–721.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gravesen S. Fungi as a cause of allergic disease. Allergy 1979; 34(3): 135–154.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Harrison J, Pickering CA, Faragher EB, Austwick PK, Little SA, Lawton L. An investigation of the relationship between microbial and particulate indoor air pollution and the sick building syndrome. Respiratory Medicine 1992; 86(3): 225–235.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jaakkola JJ, Miettinen P. Ventilation rate in office buildings and sick building syndrome. Occupational & Environmental Medicine 1995; 52(11): 709–714.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mendell MJ. Non-specific symptoms in office workers: a review and summary of the epidemiologic literature. Indoor Air 1993; 3: 227–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    WHO. Indoor air pollutants: exposure and health effects. Copenhagen: World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe (EURO Reports and Studies No. 78); 1983.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Skov P. The sick building syndrome. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1992; 641: 17–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hodgson M. The sick-building syndrome. Occupational Medicine 1995; 10(1): 167–175.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Li CS, Hsu CW, Tai ML. Indoor pollution and sick building syndrome symptoms among workers in day-care centers. Archives of Environmental Health 1997; 52(3): 200–207.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Cooley JD, Wong WC, Jumper CA, Straus DC. Correlation between the prevalence of certain fungi and sick building syndrome. Occupational & Environmental Medicine 1998; 55: 579–584.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Strachan DP, Flannigan B, McCabe EM, McGarry F. Quantification of airborne moulds in the homes of children with and without wheeze. Thorax 1990; 45(5): 382–387.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bernstein RS, Sorenson WG, Garabrant D, Reaux C, Treitman RD. Exposures to respirable, airborne Penicillium from a contaminated ventilation system: clinical, environmental and epidemiological aspects. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 1983; 44(3): 161–169.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Verhoeff AP, Burge HA. Health risk assessment of fungi in home environments. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology 1997; 78(6): 544–556.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gravesen S, Larsen L, Gyntelberg F, Skov P. Demonstration of microorganisms and dust in schools and offices. An observational study of non-industrial buildings. Allergy 1986; 41(7): 520–525.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Gyntelberg F, Suadicani P, Nielsen JW, Skov P, Valbjorn O, Nielsen PA, et al. Dust and the sick building syndrome. Indoor Air 1994; 4: 223–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Verhoeff AP, van Reenen-Hoekstra ES, Samson RA, Brunekreef B, van Wijnen JH. Fungal propagules in house dust. I. Comparison of analytic methods and their value as estimators of potential exposure. Allergy 1994; 49(7): 533–539.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Beguin H, Nolard N. Prevalence of fungi in carpeted floor environment: analysis of dust samples from living-rooms, bedrooms, offices and school classrooms. Aerobiologia 1996; 12: 113–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Chew GL. Exposure assessment of allergens and culturable fungi in residential environments [Dissertation]. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard School of Public Health; 1997.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Schneider T, Petersen OH, Kildeso J, Kloch NP, Lobner T. Design and calibration of a simple instrument for measuring dust on surfaces in the indoor environment. Indoor Air 1996; 6: 204–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Schneider T, Lobner T, Nilsen SK, OHP. Quality of cleaning quantified. Building and Environment 1994; 29(3): 363–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Schneider T, Nilsen SK, Dahl I. Cleaning methods, their effectiveness and airborne dust generation. Building and Environment 1994; 29(3): 369–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cody RP, Smith JK. Factor analysis. In: Heath A, editor. Applied Statistics and the SAS Programming Language. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.; 1997: 250–264.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jongman RHG, ter Braak CJF, van Tongeren OFR. Data Analysis in Community and Landscape Ecology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 1995.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kleinbaum DG, Kupper LL, Muller KE. Applied Regression Analysis and Other Multivariable Methods. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: PWS-KENT Publishing Company, 1988.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hamilton LC. Regression with Graphics: A Second Course in Applied Statistics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Inc.; 1992.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Smid T, Schokkin E, Boleij JSM, Heederik D. Enumeration of viable fungi in occupational environments: a comparison of samplers and media. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal 1989; 50(5): 235-239.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Verhoeff AP, van Wijnen JH, Boleij JS, Brunekreef B, van Reenen-Hoekstra ES, Samson RA. Enumeration and identification of airborne viable mould propagules in houses. A field comparison of selected techniques. Allergy 1990; 45(4): 275–284.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ren P, Jankun TM, Belanger K, Bracken MB, Leaderer BP. The relation between fungal propagules in indoor air and home characteristics. Allergy 2001; 56(5): 419–424.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Wu PC, Su HJJ, Ho HM. A comparison of sampling media for environmental viable fungi collected in a hospital environment. Environmental Research 2000; 82(3): 253–257.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Burge HA. The fungi. In: Spengler JD, Jonathan S, McCarthy JF, eds. Indoor Air Quality Handbook. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2000: 45.1–45.33.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Li CS, Kuo YM, Hsu LY. Significance of concentration variations of microbial aerosols within domestic dwellings. Environment International 1994; 20(2): 179–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Dix NJ, Webster J. Fungal Ecology. London, UK: Chapman & Hall, 1995.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Burge HA, Solomon WR, Boise JR. Microbial prevalence in domestic humidifiers. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 1980; 39(4): 840–844.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Malloch D. Moulds: Their Isolation, Cultivation, and Identification. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Burge HA, Simmons EG, Muilenberg M, Hoyer M, Gallup J, Solomon W. Intrinsic variability in airborne fungi: implications for allergen standardization. Exs 1987; 51: 143–146.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Beaumont F, Kauffman HF, van der Mark TH, Sluiter HJ, de Vries K. Volumetric aerobiological survey of conidial fungi in the North-East Netherlands. I. Seasonal patterns and the influence of metereological variables. Allergy 1985; 40(3): 173–180.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Levetin E. Fungi. In: Burge HA, editor. Bioaerosols. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, 1995: 87–120.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Su HJ, Rotnitzky A, Burge HA, Spengler JD. Examination of fungi in domestic interiors by using factor analysis: correlations and associations with home factors. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 1992; 58(1): 181–186.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Burge HA, Otten JA. Fungi. In: Macher J, ed. Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control. Cincinnati, OH: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), 1999; 19: 1–13.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hsing Jasmine Chao
    • 1
  • Donald K. Milton
    • 1
  • Joel Schwartz
    • 1
  • Harriet A. Burge
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental HealthHarvard School of Public HealthUSA

Personalised recommendations