Indoor Microbiological Pollutants — Sources, Species, Characterisation and Evaluation

  • Brian Flannigan
Part of the Eurocourses: Chemical and Environmental Science book series (EUCE, volume 4)


Bacteria and fungi growing saprotrophically on damp surfaces in buildings, and in humidifiers and HVAC systems, contribute to the air spora of indoor air, which is dominated by the moulds Penicillium and Cladosporium and bacteria in the the Micrococcaceae. Actinomycetes and xerophilic fungi are among those micro-organisms in indoor air which are associated with rhinitis and asthma. Some organisms cause humidifier fever and extrinsic allergic alveolitis, but pathogens such as Aspergillus fumigatus and Legionella are seldom abundant. In investigating possible relationships between the air spora and symptoms of building-related illnesses such as SBS, the choice of sampling and cultural methods is critical. Although viable samplers make identification of organisms possible, they underestimate the total numbers of airborne spores and bacteria, but liquid impingers and filtration samplers enable viable counts and total counts to be made from the same sample. Since mycotoxins in inhaled fungal spores may seriously affect macrophage and other functions in the lung, more research on the effects of toxigenic fungi on respiratory health is required. Another area requiring investigation is production of microbial volatile compounds and their possible role in health.


Sieve Plate Sick Building Syndrome Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis Thermophilic Actinomycete Isolation Plate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. ACGIH (1989) Guidelines for the Assessment of Bioaerosols in the Indoor Environment, American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, Cincinnati.Google Scholar
  2. Andersen, A.A. (1958) ‘New sampler for the collection, sizing, and enumeration of viable airborne particles’, J. Bacteriology 76, 471–484.Google Scholar
  3. Austwick, P.K.C., Davies, P.S., Cook, C.P. and Pickering, C.A.C. (1986) ‘Comparative microbiological studies in humidifier fever’, in C. Molina (ed.), Maladies des Climatiseurs et de Humidificateurs’, INSERM, Paris, pp. 155–164.Google Scholar
  4. Austwick, P.K.C., Little, S.A., Lawton, L., Pickering, C.A.C. and Harrison, J. (1989) ‘Microbiology of sick buildings’, in B. Flannigan (ed.), Airborne Deteriogens and Pathogens, The Biodeterioration Society, Kew, pp. 122–128.Google Scholar
  5. Beaumont, F., Kauffman, H.F., Sluiter, H.J. and de Vries, K. (1985) ‘Volumetric aerobiological survey of conidial fungi in the North-East Netherlands. II. Comparison of aerobiological data and skin tests with mould extracts in an asthmatic population’, Allergy 40, 181–186.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Binnie, P.W.H. (1987) ‘Airborne microflora in Florida homes’, Proceedings, Fourth International Conference on Indoor Air and Climate, Berlin, Vol. 1, pp. 660–664.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdillon, R.B., Lidwell, O.M. and Thomas, J.C. (1941) ‘A slit sampler for collecting and counting airborne bacteria’, J. Hygiene 41, 197–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brunekreef, B., Dockery, D.W., Speizer, F.E., Ware, J.H., Spengler, J.D. and Ferris, B.G. (1989) ‘Home dampness and respiratory morbidity in children’, American Review of Respiratory Disease 140, 1363–1367.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burge, H.P., Boise, J.R., Rutherford, J.A. and Solomon, W.R. (1977) ‘Compar- ative recoveries of airborne spores by viable and non-viable modes of volumetric collection’. Mvcopathologia 61, 27–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Casewell, M.W., Desai, N. and Lease, E.J. (1986) ‘The use of the Reuter centrifugal air sampler for the estimation of bacterial air counts in different hospital locations’, J. Hospital Infection 7, 250–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Casewell, M.W., Simmons, N.A., Fermie, P.G. and Thomas, C. (1984) ‘Bacterial air counts obtained with a centifugal (RCS) sampler and a slit sampler — the influence of aerosols’, J. Hospital Infection 5, 76–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clark, S., Lach, V. and Lidwell, O.M. (1981) ‘The performance of the Biotest RCS centrifugal air sampler’, J. Hospital Infection 2, 181–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Croft, W.A., Jarvis, B.B. and Yatawara, C.S. (1986) ‘Airborne outbreak of trichothecene toxicosis’, Atmospheric Environment 20, 549–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crook, B., Robertson, J.F., Travers Glass, S.A., Botheroyd, E.M., Lacey, J. and Topping, M.D. (1991) ‘Airborne dust, ammonia, micro-organisms, and antigens in pig confinement houses and the respiratory health of exposed farm workers’, American Industrial Hygiene Association J. 52, 271–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dales, R.E., Burnett, R. and Zwanenburg, H. (1991a) ‘Adverse health effects in adults exposed to home dampness and molds’, American Review of Respiratory Disease 143, 505–509.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Dales, R.E., Zwanenburg, H., Burnett, R. and Franklin, C.A. (1991b). ‘Respiratory health effects of home dampness and molds among Canadian children, American J. Epidemiology 134, 196–203.Google Scholar
  17. Elixmann, J.H., Schata, M. and Jorde,W. (1990) ‘Fungi in filters of air-conditioning systems cause the building-related-illnesses’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 1, CMHC, Ottawa, pp.193–196.Google Scholar
  18. Errington, F.P. and Powell, E.O. (1969) ‘A cyclone separator for sampling in the field’ J. Hygiene, Cambridge 67, 387–399.Google Scholar
  19. Flannigan, B. (1991) ‘Deteriogenic micro-organisms in houses as a hazard to respiratory health’, in H.W. Rossmoore (ed.), Biodeterioration and Biodegradation 8, Elsevier Applied Science, London, pp. 220–233.Google Scholar
  20. Flannigan, B., McCabe, E.M. and McGarry, F. (1991) ‘Allergenic and toxigenic micro-organisms in houses’, J. Applied Bacteriology 70 (supplement), 61S-73S.Google Scholar
  21. Flannigan, B. McCabe, E.M., McGarry, F. and Strachan, D.P. (1990) ‘Wheeze in children: an investigation of the air spora in the home’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 2, CMHC, Ottawa, pp. 27–32.Google Scholar
  22. Fradkin, A., Tobin, R.S. Tarlo, S.M., Tucic-Porretta, M. and Malloch, M. (1987) ‘Species identification of airborne molds and its significance for the detection of indoor pollution’, J. Air Pollution Control Association 37, 51–53.Google Scholar
  23. Gillespie, L., Clark, C.S., Bjornson, H.S., Samuels, S.J. and Holland, J.W. (1981) ‘A comparison of two-stage and six-stage impactors for viable aerosols’, American Industrial Hygiene Association J. 42, 858–864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grant, C., Hunter, C.A., Flannigan, B. and Bravery, A.F. (1989) ‘The moisture requirements of moulds isolated from domestic dwellings’, International Biodeterioration 25, 259–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hunter, C.A.,Grant, C., Flannigan, B. and Bravery, A.F. (1988) ‘Mould in buildings: the air spora of domestic dwellings’, International Biodeterioration 24, 81–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones, W., Morring, K., Morey, P. and Sorenson, W. (1985) ‘Evaluation of the Andersen viable impactor for single stage sampling’, American Industrial Hygiene Association J. 46, 294–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kaye, S. 1988. ‘ Efficiency of “Biotest RCS” as a sampler of airborne bacteria’, J. Parenteral Science and Technology 42, 147–152.Google Scholar
  28. Kozak, P.P.,Gallup, J., Cummins, L.H. and Gillman, S.A. (1979) ‘Currently available methods for home mold surveys II. Examples of problem homes surveyed’, Annals of Allergy 45, 167–176.Google Scholar
  29. Lach, V. (1985) ‘Performance of the surface air system air samplers’ J. Hospital Infection 6, 102–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laflamme, A.-M. and Miller, J.D. (1992) ‘Collection of spores of various fungi by a Reuter centrifugal sampler’, International Biodeterioration (in press).Google Scholar
  31. Kreiss, K. and Hodgson, M.J. (1984) ‘Building-associated epidemics’, in P.J. Walsh, C.S. Dudney and E.D. Copenhaver (eds.), Indoor Air Quality, CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp. 87–106.Google Scholar
  32. Leinster, P., Raw, G., Thomson, N., Leaman, A. and Whitehead, C. (1990) ‘A modular longitudinal approach to the investigation of sick building syndrome’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 1, CMHC, Ottawa, pp. 287–292.Google Scholar
  33. Macher, J.M. and First, M.W. (1983) ‘Reuter centrifugal air sampler: measurement of effective airflow rate and collection efficiency’, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 45, 1960–1962.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Mainville, C., Auger, P.L., Smorgawiewicz, W., Neculcea, D., Neculcea, J. and Lévesque, M. (1988) ‘Mycotoxines et syndrome d’extreme fatigue dans un hopital’, in B. Petterson and T. Lindvall (eds.), Healthy Buildings ’88, Swedish Council for Building Research, Stockholm, pp. 309–317.Google Scholar
  35. Mathews, K.P., (1989) ‘Inhalant insect-derived allergens’, Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America 9, 321–328.Google Scholar
  36. May, K.R. (1966) ‘ Multistage liquid impinger’, Bacteriological Reviews 30, 559–570.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Miller, J.D., (1990) ‘Fungi as contaminants in indoor air’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 5, CMHC, Ottawa, pp. 51–64.Google Scholar
  38. Miller, J.D., Laflamme, A.M., Sobol, Y., Lafontaine, P. and Greenhalgh, R. (1988) ‘Fungi and fungal products in some Canadian houses’, International Biodeterioration 24, 103–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Muilenberg, M. M. (1989) ‘Aeroallergen assessment by microscopy and culture’, Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America 9, 245–268.Google Scholar
  40. Nakhla, L.S. and Cummings, R.F. (1981) ‘A comparative evaluation of a new centrifugal air sampler (RCS) with a slit air sampler (SAS) in a hospital environment’, J. Hospital Infection 2, 261–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nevalainen, A., Jantunen, M.J., Rytkönen, A., Niininen, M., Reponen, T. and Kalioloski, P. (1988) The indoor air quality of Finnish homes with mold problems’, in B. Petterson and T. Lindvall (eds.), Healthy Buildings ’88, Swedish Council for Building Research, Stockholm, pp. 309–317.Google Scholar
  42. Nevalainen, A., Kotimaa, M., Pasanen, A.L., Pellikka, M., Niininen, M., Reponen, T. and Kalliokoski, P. (1990) ‘Mesophilic actinomycetes — the real indoor air problem?’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 1, CMHC, Ottawa, pp. 203–206.Google Scholar
  43. Nevalainen, A., Pastuszka, J., Liebhaber, F. and Willeke, K. (1992) ‘Performance of bioaerosol samplers: collection characteristics and sampler design considerations’, Atmosperic Environment (in press).Google Scholar
  44. Palmgren, U., Ström, G., Blomquist, G. and Malmberg, P. (1986a) ‘Collection of airborne micro-organisms on Nuclepore filters, estimation and analysis — CAMNEA method’, J. Applied Bacteriology 61, 401–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Palmgren, U., Ström, G., Malmberg, P. and Blomquist, G. (1986b) ‘The Nuclepore filter method: a technique for enumeration of viable and nonviable airborne micro-organisms’, American J. Industrial Medicine 10, 325–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pettipher, G.L., Mansell, R., McKinnon, C.H. and Cousins, C.M. (1980) ‘Rapid membrane filtration-epifluorescent microscopy technique for direct enumeration of bacteria in raw milk’, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 39, 423–429.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Placencia, A.M., Peeler, J.T., Oxborrow, G.S. and Danielson, J.W. (1982) ‘Comparison of bacterial recovery by Reuter centrifugal air sampler and slit-to-agar sampler’, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 44, 512–513.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Rylander, R. (1986). ‘The role of endotoxins in humidifier disease’, in C. Molina (ed.), Maladies des Climatiseurs et des Humidificateurs, INSERM, Paris, pp. 179–192.Google Scholar
  49. Schata, M., Elixmann, J.H. and Jorde, W. ‘Evidence of heating systems in controlling house-dust mites and moulds in the indoor environment’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 4, CMHC, Ottawa, pp. 577–581.Google Scholar
  50. Sorenson, W.G. (1989) ‘Health impact of mycotoxins in the home and workplace: an overview’, in C.E. O’Rear and G.C. Llewellyn (eds.), Biodeterioration Research 2, Plenum, New York, pp. 201–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Staib, F. (1984) Ecology and epidemiological aspects of aspergilli pathogenic for man and animals in Berlin (West)’, Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie und Hygiene, Abteilung I, Originale A 257, 240–245.Google Scholar
  52. Strachan, D.P. (1988) ‘Damp housing and childhood asthma: validation of reporting of symptoms’, British Medical Journal 297, 1223–1226.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Strachan, D.P., Flannigan, B., McCabe, E.M. and McGarry, F. (1990) ‘Quantification of airborne moulds in the homes of children with and without wheeze’, Thorax 45, 382–387.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ström, G., Palmgren, U., Wessen, B., Hellström, B. and Kumlins, A. (1990) ‘The sick building syndrome — an effect of microbial growth in building constructions?’, in D.S. Walkinshaw (ed.), Indoor Air ’90, Vol. 1, CMHC, Ottawa, pp.173–178.Google Scholar
  55. Torii, S., Sakamoto, T. and Matsuda, Y. (1990) ‘Significance of xerophilic fungi in indoor environment — allergenic and antigenic activities of the xerophilic fungi in asthmatic patients’, IUMS Congress of Bacteriology and Mycology, Osaka, Japan, Abstracts, p.30.Google Scholar
  56. Verhoeff, A.P., van Wijnen, J.H.,Boleij, J.S.M., Brunekreef, B., van Reenen Hoekstra, E.S. and Samson, R.A. (1990a) ‘Enumeration and identification of airborne viable mould propagules in houses’, Allergy 45, 275–284.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Verhoeff, A.P., van Wijnen, J.H., Fischer, P., Brunekreef, B., Boleij, J.S.M., van Reenen- Hoekstra, E.S. and Samson, R.A. (1990b) ‘Presence of viable mould propagules in indoor air of houses’, Toxicology and Industrial Health 6, 133–145.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Verhoeff, A.P., van Wijnen, J.H., Brunekreef, B., Fischer, P., van ReenenHoekstra, E.S. and Samson, R.A. (1992) ‘The presence of viable mould propagules in indoor air in relation to home dampness and outdoor air’, Allergy (in press).Google Scholar
  59. Waegemaekers, M., van Wageningen, N., Brunekreef, B. and Boleij, J.S.M. (1989). ‘Respiratory symptoms in damp houses’, Allergy 44, 192–198.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zimmerman, N.J., Reist, P.C. and Turner, A.G. (1987) ‘Comparison of two biological aerosol sampling methods’, Applied and Environmental Microbiology 53, 99–104.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Flannigan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesHeriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations