Fungal Fragments in Moldy Houses: A Field Study in Homes in New Orleans and Southern Ohio

Atmos Environ (1994). 2007 Dec;41(37):8140-8149. doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2007.06.027.


Smaller-sized fungal fragments (<1 μm) may contribute to mold-related health effects. Previous laboratory-based studies have shown that the number concentration of fungal fragments can be up to 500 times higher than that of fungal spores, but this has not yet been confirmed in a field study due to lack of suitable methodology. We have recently developed a field-compatible method for the sampling and analysis of airborne fungal fragments. The new methodology was utilized for characterizing fungal fragment exposures in mold-contaminated homes selected in New Orleans, Louisiana and Southern Ohio. Airborne fungal particles were separated into three distinct size fractions: (i) >2.25 μm (spores); (ii) 1.05-2.25 μm (mixture); and (iii) < 1.0 μm (submicrometer-sized fragments). Samples were collected in five homes in summer and winter and analyzed for (1→3)-β-D-glucan. The total (1→3)-β-D-glucan varied from 0.2 to 16.0 ng m(-3). The ratio of (1→3)-β-D-glucan mass in fragment size fraction to that in spore size fraction (F/S) varied from 0.011 to 2.163. The mass ratio was higher in winter (average = 1.017) than in summer (0.227) coinciding with a lower relative humidity in the winter. Assuming a mass-based F/S-ratio=1 and the spore size = 3 μm, the corresponding number-based F/S-ratio (fragment number/spore number) would be 10(3) and 10(6), for the fragment sizes of 0.3 and 0.03 μm, respectively. These results indicate that the actual (field) contribution of fungal fragments to the overall exposure may be very high, even much greater than that estimated in our earlier laboratory-based studies.