Comparison of Air Impaction and Electrostatic Dust Collector Sampling Methods to Assess Airborne Fungal Contamination in Public Buildings

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Abstract

Many ailments can be linked to exposure to indoor airborne fungus. However, obtaining a precise measurement of airborne fungal levels is complicated partly due to indoor air fluctuations and non-standardized techniques. Electrostatic dust collector (EDC) sampling devices have been used to measure a wide range of airborne analytes, including endotoxins, allergens, β-glucans, and microbial DNA in various indoor environments. In contrast, viable mold contamination has only been assessed in highly contaminated environments such as farms and archive buildings. This study aimed to assess the use of EDCs, compared with repeated air-impactor measurements, to assess airborne viable fungal flora in moderately contaminated indoor environments. Indoor airborne fungal flora was cultured from EDCs and daily air-impaction samples collected in an office building and a daycare center. The quantitative fungal measurements obtained using a single EDC significantly correlated with the cumulative measurement of nine daily air impactions. Both methods enabled the assessment of fungal exposure, although a few differences were observed between the detected fungal species and the relative quantity of each species. EDCs were also used over a 32-month period to monitor indoor airborne fungal flora in a hospital office building, which enabled us to assess the impact of outdoor events (e.g. ground excavations) on the fungal flora levels on the indoor environment. In conclusion, EDC-based measurements provided a relatively accurate profile of the viable airborne flora present during a sampling period. In particular, EDCs provided a more representative assessment of fungal levels compared with single air-impactor sampling. The EDC technique is also simpler than performing repetitive air-impaction measures over the course of several consecutive days. EDC is a versatile tool for collecting airborne samples and was efficient for measuring mold levels in indoor environments.

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