Indicators of airborne fungal concentrations in urban homes: understanding the conditions that affect indoor fungal exposures.

Abstract

Indoor fungal exposure can compromise respiratory health. Low-income urban areas are of concern because of high asthma and allergy rates and housing disrepair. Understanding the conditions that affect indoor fungal exposures is important for assessing health risks and for developing mitigation strategies. We examined the types and concentrations of airborne fungi inside and outside of homes in low-income areas of Syracuse, NY as well as the effect of snow cover on fungal levels. At 103 homes, air samples for viable fungi were collected, occupants were interviewed and homes were inspected for visible mold, musty odors, water problems and other factors. Multivariable logistic regression was used to relate high fungal levels to home conditions. Predominant indoor fungi included Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria and hyaline unknowns. Basidiomycetes and an uncommon genus Acrodontium were also found frequently due to analysis methods developed for this project. With snow cover, outdoor total fungal levels were depressed and indoor concentrations were three times higher than outdoor on average with a maximum of 29 times higher. Visible mold was related to elevated levels of Penicillium (OR 4.11 95% CI 1.37-14.0) and bacteria (OR 3.79 95% CI 1.41-11.2). Musty, moldy odors were associated with elevated concentrations of total fungi (OR 3.48 95% CI 1.13-11.6) and basidiomycetes. Cockroaches, an indicator of moisture, were associated with elevated levels of Penicillium (OR 3.66 95% CI 1.16-13.1) and Aspergillus (OR 4.36 95% CI 1.60-13.4). Increasing relative humidity was associated with higher concentrations of Penicillium, yeasts and basidiomycetes. Visible mold, musty odors, indoor humidity and cockroaches are modifiable factors that were important determinants of indoor fungal exposures. Indoor air investigators should interpret indoor:outdoor fungal ratios cautiously when snow cover is present.

DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.02.060
020406020162017
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@article{Crawford2015IndicatorsOA, title={Indicators of airborne fungal concentrations in urban homes: understanding the conditions that affect indoor fungal exposures.}, author={Judith A. Crawford and Paula F. Rosenbaum and Susan E Anagnost and Andrew Hunt and Jerrold L. Abraham}, journal={The Science of the total environment}, year={2015}, volume={517}, pages={113-24} }