Fungal Contamination in Public Buildings: A Guide to Recognition and Management

Fungal Contamination in Public Buildings: A Guide to Recognition and Management
Fungal contamination in public
buildings: A guide to recognition
and management
Fungal Contamination in Public
Buildings: A Guide to Recognition
and Management
Federal-Provincial Committee on
Environmental and Occupational
Health
Copies of this report are available from:
Environmental Health Directorate
Health Canada
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0L2
June 1995
FUNGAL CONTAMINATION IN PUBLIC BUILDINGS:
A GUIDE TO RECOGNITION & MANAGEMENT
CONTENTS
Page
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i
Federal-Provincial Working Group on Mycological
Air Quality in Public Buildings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii
Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iii
I.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
II.
Human Health Effects of Indoor Fungi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
III.
Guidelines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
3.1
3.2
IV.
Recommended Procedures for the Investigation and
Interpretation of Indoor Fungal Contamination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
V.
Summary of Currently Available Guidelines
for Mycological Indoor Air Quality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Interpretation of Results from the 1993 Health
Canada Technical Guide by the Working Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
General Principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sampling Methods for Indoor Fungal Amplifiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Protocols for Investigation of Indoor Fungal Amplifiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.4.1 The Purpose of These Protocols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.4.2 How to Use These Protocols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.4.3 Symbols and Expressions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.4.4 Protocols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Abbreviated Stachybotrys Algorithm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
9
9
11
11
11
12
13
13
28
Remediation and Preventive Maintenance of Buildings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
5.1
5.2
Remediation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Preventive Maintenance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.1 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.2 Building Design Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
29
30
30
31
5.2.3 Implementation of a Preventive
Maintenance Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
5.2.4 Communications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
VI.
Recommendations for Future Actions and Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
VII.
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
DETAILED TABLE OF CONTENTS
4.4.4 Protocols
Page
#1:
Why Investigate? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
#2:
Building History Investigation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
#3:
Visual Inspection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
#4:
Air Sampling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
#5:
Examination for Evidence of Fungi in Settled Materials:
Dust, Biofilms, and Standing Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
#6:
Dust Vacuum Sampling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
#7:
Microscopic Examination of Mould or Dust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
#8:
Culture of Swabs, Scrapings, or Surface Dust;
and Use of Contact Culture Plates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
#9:
Extraordinary Physical Search: Examination of Difficult Sites within Buildings . . . . . . 22
#10:
Mould (Non-stachybotrys) Source Location and Clean-up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
#11:
Minimal Stachybotrys, Source Not Located, Likely Indoors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
#12:
Low to High Stachybotrys, Source Not Located, Likely Indoors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
#13:
Minimal Stachybotrys, Source Not Located,
Outdoors or Indoors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
#14:
Low to High Stachybotrys, Source Not Located,
Outdoors or Indoors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
#15:
Ergosterol or Glucan Sampling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
#16:
Mycotoxin Sampling from Air or Dust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
#17:
Humidifier Water Direct Microscopy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
#18:
Humidifier Water Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
#19:
Cytotoxicity Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
List of Appendices
Appendix A
Human Health Effects of Indoor Fungi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Appendix B
Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings:
A Technical Guide, Health Canada, 1993 (Pages 48–49) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Appendix C
Standard Operating Procedure:
An Example for the Investigation and Remediation of
Indoor Air Quality Contamination by Mycological Agents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Appendix D
Sampling Methodology for Fungal Bioaerosols and
Amplifiers in Cases of Suspected Indoor Mould Proliferation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Foreword
In the field of environmental health,
there are times when heightened awareness of
a particular issue creates public concern. One
example of this is the recent experience of
Prince Edward Island with respect to indoor
air quality in its schools. A major issue was
fungal contamination — in particular, how to
interpret laboratory data in terms of the effects
of fungal contamination on human health.
The Federal-Provincial Committee on
Environmental and Occupational Health was
asked for assistance in resolving this issue. As
part of its working mandate, this committee
examines health hazards associated with
chemicals, radiation, environmental microbials,
tobacco, and hazardous products. Depending
on the topic, fulfilling the committee's mandate
may
require
the
establishment
of
subcommittees, such as the one on drinking
water, whose focus is to develop and
continuously update the Canadian Drinking
Water Guidelines. When an issue requires a
report with a specific time-line, working
groups are established.
At Prince Edward Island's request, and
with the support of the Federal-Provincial
Committee
on
Environmental
and
Occupational Health, a working group was
authorized to review mycological air quality in
public buildings. To provide a broad
perspective of the problem, members were
chosen with specialization in respiratory and
occupational medicine, medical microbiology,
occupational health and safety, medical
mycology, environmental microbiology, and
environmental health.
The Working Group on Mycological
Air Quality in Public Buildings held a series of
six meetings over a 10-month period.
Each member was assigned a topic and wrote
a section of the report, which was then
discussed by the group to achieve consensus.
Much more remains to be understood about
the significance of indoor air fungi and their
impact on human health, and several
recommendations for further research are
contained in this report.
The Working Group has attempted to
base its final report on existing scientific data,
while recognizing that these data are limited
and imperfect. The resulting guidelines are
general, and considerable judgement is
required to determine how they should be
applied in specific situations. The guidelines
emphasize the elimination of fungal
amplification points and the protection of
building occupants.
i
Federal–Provincial Working Group on
Mycological Air Quality in Public Buildings
Mr. Richard Davies (Chair)
Division of Environmental Health
PEI Department of Health & Social Services
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, PEI
C1A 7N8
Dr. Irvin Broder
Gage Research Institute
Department of Medicine
University of Toronto
223 College Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5T 1R4
Dr. Richard Summerbell
Mycology Department
Ontario Ministry of Health
Laboratory Services
81 Resources Road
Etobicoke, Ontario
M9P 3T1
Dr. Robert Dales
Department of Medicine
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario
K1H 8L6
Dr. John Kirkbride
Occupational Health Sciences
Health Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0L3
Dr. David Haldane
Department of Microbiology
Victoria General Hospital
1278 Tower Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 2Y9
Dr. Tiiu Kauri
Environmental Health Directorate
Health Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0L2
Dr. Alfred Dufour
Environmental Monitoring System Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Cincinnati, Ohio 45268
U.S.A.
Mr. William Robertson
Environmental Health Directorate
Health Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0L2
Dr. Kenneth Yu
Medical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
Department
Occupational Health and Safety
University of Alberta
106 Education Park
Edmonton, Alberta
T6G 2R5
Mrs.
Louise
Damant
(Secretariat)
Environmental Health Directorate
Health Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0L2
ii
Executive Summary
The health implications of the fungal
contamination of indoor air have become an
issue of increasing concern in recent years. At
the request of the Government of Prince
Edward Island, and with the support of the
Federal-Provincial
Committee
on
Environmental and Occupational Health, a
working group was established to develop an
interim guide to assist public health,
occupational health, and building maintenance
officials in the interpretation of fungal
contamination data from public buildings with
respect to health.
The guide has been designed to assist
in the recognition and management of fungal
contamination problems in public buildings. It
also strives to further the understanding of the
health significance of fungi detected in the
course of building investigations. This guide
applies to indoor air in all public buildings,
excluding hospitals and industrial settings.
The Working Group has reviewed the
health effects associated with fungal
contamination of indoor air, reviewed existing
indoor air quality guidelines, and provided
guidance on procedures for the investigation
and interpretation of indoor fungal
contamination and for remediation and
preventive maintenance of buildings.
Published literature describing the
health impacts of exposure to indoor air fungi
was critically reviewed. Epidemiological
studies have consistently detected an
association between respiratory symptoms and
home dampness and mould
growth, but causality in these studies has not
been established. The burden of illness in the
population attributable to fungi in private
homes and public buildings is not yet known.
While the magnitude of the population risk is
unknown, it would seem prudent, based on
current evidence, to remediate indoor sources
conducive to fungal growth.
A guide to the interpretation of fungal
sampling data was described in Indoor Air
Quality in Office Buildings: A Technical
Guide, published by Health Canada in 1993.
The Working Group strongly supports the
approach described in that document, which
has been used on a regular basis to investigate
and solve mycological indoor air quality
problems. Accordingly, questions on the
interpretation of data have arisen. In an
attempt to answer these questions, the
Working Group reviewed this approach and in
this document proposes slightly revised
courses of action. Their essence remains the
same as stated in the original 1993 document.
The guiding principle during
investigative or remedial actions is to ensure
that no procedures contribute to further fungal
contamination of the public building, thus
minimizing the health and safety risks to
occupants. The procedures for the
investigation of possible mycological
contamination of indoor air can be grouped
broadly into the following phases:
iii
exposure of previously cryptic contaminants
and redistribution of such contaminants via the
HVAC system or by other means. All
individuals within the building should be
protected from exposure.
A key element of the report is a
detailed step-wise protocol to assist
professionals who may be asked to investigate
a building with a potential fungal amplification
problem. This protocol covers investigation of
building history, visual inspection, sampling
and culturing of airborne propagules,
examination and culturing of materials and
assays for ergosterol and mycotoxin. A recent
reference describing pathogenic and toxigenic
fungi is also provided. In this protocol, special
attention has been placed on the toxigenic
fungus Stachybotrys chartarum (=atra), which
is frequently isolated from water-damaged
buildings in Canada. The protocol includes a
logic chart to aid in the investigation of
buildings where Stachybotrys chartarum has
been isolated or where health symptoms
suggest its presence.
Assessing the magnitude of health problems
A determination of the occurrence and
severity of health problems may be obtained
from discussions with health professionals,
building engineers, managers, employees,
union
representatives,
and
building
maintenance staff. Health questionnaires are
sometimes used as a tool to assemble more
comprehensive information.
Identifying problems in the building
environment
Fungal proliferation is most often
found in buildings in which there is excess
moisture, often in the presence of waterdamaged material. Investigators should look
for areas in buildings where moisture and
substrates may encourage fungal growth —
for example, areas containing cellulosic
materials, air filters, heat exchangers,
humidifiers, water sumps, perimeter heating
and cooling units, wetted carpet, porous duct
lining materials, etc. An attempt should be
made to correlate these conditions with highsymptom areas and to designate possible hot
spots of contamination.
Risk communication
Lines of communication with building
occupants, workplace health and safety
officials, building managers and owners,
employers, and union representatives should
be established as soon as health complaints
related to indoor air quality are received.
Staged plans for investigation of the source of
the problem should be presented and agreed to
by all parties involved. If fungal contamination
is detected, discussions should occur on the
health risks and remedial measures to be
carried out. Building occupants should be kept
up to date during the investigative, remedial,
and follow-up stages.
Identification of indoor fungal amplifiers
Thorough visual inspection of a
problem building, combined with some surface
samples for microscopic analysis of apparent
mould colonies and of deposits in HVAC
systems, may obviate the need for air
sampling. Where such inspections yield
negative results, air sampling should be
considered.
Destructive testing is necessary when
certain structures of the building have to be
taken apart in an attempt to locate the source
of suspected contamination. During this phase,
the contamination status of the building is
expected to be altered by the actions taken by
the investigative team, possibly through
iv
potential health problems associated with
contaminated indoor air, including the
importance of the proper design, installation,
operation, and maintenance of HVAC systems
to minimize accumulation, amplification, and
dissemination of micro-organisms. Prevention
of fungal contamination is one of the most
desirable strategies for risk management.
Remedial actions
Strategies for the remediation of
indoor air quality problems caused by fungi are
based on the elimination of conditions that
promote the amplification of these potentially
hazardous organisms. Remediation of fungal
hazards may involve cleaning affected areas,
decontaminating the HVAC systems, removing
contaminated materials, repairing or replacing
damaged materials or structures, and
modifying the environmental conditions in the
affected area. During this phase, the
contamination status of the building is
expected to be altered by the actions taken by
the investigative team, possibly through
disturbance of newly exposed heavy
concentrations
of
contaminants
and
redistribution of such contaminants via the
HVAC system.
The design, construction, and
maintenance of public buildings should
minimize conditions that allow the
accumulation, amplification, and dissemination
of micro-organisms in indoor air. Building
maintenance personnel and building managers
should be aware of the
Although the report is based on the
data available in the literature, the Working
Group recognizes that these data may be
limited and imperfect. Nevertheless, the report
should have general usefulness if it is applied
with reasonable judgement to specific
situations. The report emphasizes the
elimination of fungal amplification sources and
the protection of building occupants.
Much more remains to be understood
about the significance of indoor air fungi and
their impact on human health. Several
recommendations for further research are
contained in this report.
v
I.
Introduction
The health implications of indoor
fungal contaminants have become an issue of
increasing concern in recent years. The
purpose of these guidelines is to assist in the
recognition and the management of fungal
contamination in public buildings. This
includes an understanding of the significance
of fungal measurements performed in the
course of building investigations. In the
absence of national standards, guidelines
published by other organizations have been
used to interpret fungal studies in indoor air.
It is recognized that fungi can cause a
spectrum of illnesses in humans, ranging from
rhinitis to invasive diseases.1 If associated with
fungal contamination of buildings, relatively
well defined diseases are considered “buildingrelated illnesses” (BRI). The role of fungi is
not well defined in “sick building syndrome”
(SBS), but it is this syndrome that most
frequently prompts building investigations.
The result of these building investigations is
commonly the isolation of environmental fungi
for which the health risks are not well defined
in these circumstances.
The present guidelines have been
developed with reference to previously
published recommendations.2 The Working
Group consulted many experts active in the
performance and interpretation of mycological
testing of indoor air environments. The
literature concerning the health impact of
exposure to indoor air fungi was critically
reviewed. The present guidelines address
potential health effects, recommended
procedures for investigation and interpretation
of indoor fungal contamination, remediation,
and preventive maintenance.
In the course of the development of the
guidelines, the methodology for collection of
air samples was critically reviewed. The
guidelines are linked to the method of data
collection. Methods may be chosen on the
basis of the limitations and usefulness of the
data collected, the cost and availability of
equipment, and current practice in Canada.
The applicability of these guidelines to results
derived from other sampling methodologies
has not, however, been investigated.
The guidelines described in this
document apply to all indoor air environments
in all buildings, with two exceptions: hospitals,
as the role of environmental fungi in causing
opportunistic
infection
in
immunocompromised patients was not
investigated; and industrial settings, which are
outside the scope of this document. The range
of climates in Canada, together with the
variability of buildings and the purposes to
which they are put, makes it impossible to
address every circumstance. Adherence to the
guidelines, however, should minimize the
impact of exposure to fungal materials and
guide building maintenance personnel to
address structural and potential environmental
problems in buildings. The importance of
avoidance of fungal growth by ongoing
preventive maintenance of buildings is
emphasized. Potential sources of fungal
contamination should be eliminated wherever
possible, even in the absence of air sampling
results exceeding these guidelines, and
conditions permitting growth should be
investigated.
1
The complexity of indoor air mycology
should be recognized. Although fungi are
known to cause disease, their contribution to
the presence of SBS is not well defined.
Measurements of fungal materials can be
difficult. Symptoms associated with indoor air
quality concerns are not specific. The clinical
significance of many mycotoxins has not been
established in this setting. In addition to these
issues, other questions remain, including the
degree of bioavailability of toxins in fungal
materials and the role of toxins, individually
and in combination, in causing illness. The
advances being made in our understanding of
this field require that these guidelines be given
regular review.
2
II.
Human Health Effects of
Indoor Fungi
Several excellent reviews have
compiled the diversity of illnesses caused by
fungi.3–7 A detailed review of the literature on
the human health effects of indoor fungi is
provided in Appendix A. Mediators of disease
include mycotoxins, allergens, biologically
active cell wall components, and polyclonal
cell activators. Antigenic properties of fungi
have been implicated in asthma, allergic
bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, extrinsic
allergic alveolitis, and humidifier fever.8–12
Relevant to the residential setting, Tarlo et al.
reported that 14 of 26 allergic subjects
(rhinitis, asthma) tested positive, in skin prick
tests, to fungi in their homes.12
Mycotoxin-producing fungi are not
uncommon in residential buildings. In a study
of 52 Canadian homes, Miller et al. found
evidence of mycotoxin production in three
homes containing Aspergillus fumigatus.13
Trichothecene mycotoxins have also been
isolated from the ventilation systems of three
“sick” buildings in Montreal.14 Stachybotrys
atra, a hydrophilic mould that can produce
highly toxic macrocyclic trichothecenes,11 was
thought to be responsible for chronic health
problems in a family dwelling.8 Symptoms
were consistent with a toxin etiology, toxins
were isolated from the air, and workers
apparently became ill while removing
contaminated materials. Other adverse human
health effects from mycotoxin inhalation,
documented in uncontrolled case reports,
include
renal
failure,15
tremorgenic
encephalopathy,16 and organic dust toxic
syndrome.17 Living in a damp and mouldy
home has been associated with non-specific
complaints such as headache, sore throat,
alopecia, flu symptoms, diarrhea, fatigue,
dermatitis, malaise, cough, rhinitis, epistaxis,
and fever.8,18,19 ß-1,3-glucan, a constituent of
fungal cell walls, may be related to dry cough
and irritation of the skin, eyes, and throat.20
Epidemiological studies from several countries
have demonstrated associations between
questionnaire-reported respiratory symptoms
and questionnaire-reported mould growth in
the home. This finding has been remarkably
consistent across different climates, societies,
housing characteristics, and scientific
investigators. One Canadian study also showed
a dose–response effect.21,22 The odds ratio for
cough was 1.61 (95% confidence interval [CI]
1.36–1.89) for the presence of one-versus-no
mould sites and 2.26 (95% CI 1.80–2.83) for
two-versus-no mould sites. Unlike home
studies, results from the few studies of public
buildings have been inconsistent. It would
therefore be prudent, based on current
evidence, to remediate indoor sources
conducive to fungal growth.
It is well established that fungi cause
several diseases, such as systemic infections
and asthma. However, cases of these diseases
associated with fungal exposure in public
buildings are rarely, if ever, reported. On the
other hand, fungi have been raised as one of
the possible causes of SBS, which is frequently
reported. Symptoms of SBS typically include:
•
•
•
•
3
eye irritation (itching and watering
eyes)
nasal irritation, nasal congestion
throat irritation
cough, wheeze
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
hoarseness, changed voice
skin irritation (stinging sensation,
itching, dry skin)
headache
nausea
drowsiness, tiredness
reduced mental capacity, mental
fatigue
changed sensation of odour or taste.
influence of personal characteristics, jobrelated factors, and psychosocial factors on
SBS. They found that being female, job
category, work functions (handling of
carbonless paper, photocopying, work at video
display terminals), and psychosocial factors of
work (dissatisfaction with supervisors or
colleagues and quantity of work inhibiting job
satisfaction) were associated with workrelated mucosal irritation and work-related
general symptoms, but these factors could not
account for the differences between the
buildings as to the prevalence of the
symptoms. The building factor (i.e., the indoor
climate) was strongly associated with the
prevalence of the symptoms. Thus, in a given
building, more than one factor may be at play,
and practice has shown that it is usually
difficult to attribute symptoms to specific
agents. Even when the air quality in a building
may be deemed unsatisfactory by investigators,
the causes of symptoms may be difficult to
establish, and determining them may become
an exercise of exclusion.
The symptoms of SBS are non-specific
and have been associated with many factors,
including temperature and humidity extremes.
(These factors and their sources are listed in
Table 1 on page 11 of the report Indoor Air
Quality in Office Buildings: A Technical
Guide, Health Canada, 1993.2) Broder et al.23
identified a number of factors associated with
decreased well-being among office workers. In
order of descending magnitude, these were
stress in the workplace, female gender,
exposure to volatile organic compounds
(VOCs), and other contributing factors.
Fungal spore counts were not associated with
decreased well-being. Skov et al.24 investigated
the
4
III.
Guidelines
3.1
Summary of Currently Available Guidelines for Mycological Indoor Air Quality
The following chart is a compilation of guidelines that the Working Group consulted.
SOURCE
ISSUE
ADDRESSED
INSPECTION
PROCEDURES
SAMPLING
INFORMATION
BASIS
GUIDELINE
REMEDIATION
GENERAL
ACGIH Guidelines for the
Assessment of Bioaerosols
in the Indoor Environment
198925
Bioaerosols of interest in
indoor air, e.g., fungi,
mycotoxins, bacteria,
endotoxins
On-site investigation; could lead
to remedial actions without
further investigation
Description of air sampling;
routine sampling of
bioaerosols not recommended
Medical Preassessment
pp. 1–9
ACGIH Fungi, p. 8
No numerical guidelines*
General remedial actions;
biocides characterized and
discussed separately
Indoor Air Quality in Office
Buildings
Health Canada 19932
General technical guide
Individual checklists for various
contaminants
Sampling considerations and
strategies;
RCS (4 min)
Guidelines based on
occurrence of microorganisms
in non-residential buildings
Numerical guidelines
presented; see Appendix B
of this document
Individual remediation
strategies for various
contaminants
Biological Particles in
Indoor Environments
Commission of the
European Communities
(CEC) 199326
Investigation of four main
categories of bioaerosols
(mites, dander from pets,
fungi, bacteria)
Recommendations for different
indoor environment studies:
homes, non-industrial
Available samplers and
analytical methods for air,
dust, and surface sampling
reviewed
No methods to adequately
assess the exposure to
biological particles; health
effects and occurrence
discussed
Values are given for
representative categories
(CEC, p. 35), but no health
guideline can be set based on
current knowledge
Not applicable
Airborne fungal populations
in non-residential buildings
in the United States. 199327
Fungal bioaerosols in nonresidential buildings
Not applicable
Andersen N6 single-stage
sampler (1 min) and malt
extract agar (2%)
Occurrence based
Proposed limit of 200
CFU/m3 for fungal
aerosols**
Not applicable
S. atra contamination event
Evaluation of microbial
contamination based on
environmental assessment
(visual inspection, bulk
sampling, air monitoring)
For routine assessment, air
sampling for S. atra not
recommended
Chronic exposure to
airborne S. atra poses a
risk of debilitating health
effects
Any concentration exceeding
outdoor levels should be
considered positive
Extensive remedial procedures
for safe removal of S. atra
with different levels of
containment
SPECIES SPECIFIC
Guidelines on Assessment
and Remediation of
Stachybotrys atra
New York 199328
Note: Additional standards: ASHRAE Standard 62-1989. Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality29; OSHA Indoor Air Quality — Proposed Rule, 19941
5
*
ACGIH 198925 reported that fewer than 100
CFU/m3 (colony-forming units per cubic metre)
was considered of no concern, but ACGIH
199330 indicated that a general Threshold Limit
Value (TLV) for a concentration of culturable
or countable bioaerosols is not scientifically
supportable at this time. The presence of
unusual levels of a toxigenic fungus should
trigger environmental sampling for specific
toxins25.
**
3.2
Interpretation of Results from the
1993 Health Canada Technical
Guide2 by the Working Group
large space may be missed if air is sampled
only from the middle of the space. The choice
of media is crucial. The fungi observed are
heavily dependent on the media used.
Fungal counts should not be
interpreted in isolation. The detection of
pathogenic and toxigenic fungi requires further
investigation or remediation. Observed counts
are heavily influenced by many factors and
have a great deal of variability, making it
difficult to set limits for acceptable levels.
Some of these factors include the type of
medium the sampler used, sampling time,
activities of the occupants, season, natural
ventilation versus ventilation provided by a
heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
(HVAC) system, and geographic location.
Canadian guidelines were published in
Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings: A
Technical Guide in 1993.2 As described in that
document, the guidelines are based on a large
data set gathered over a period of several
years using a Reuter centrifugal sampler with
a four-minute sampling time. These guidelines
have been found useful by workers in the field
and are used on a regular basis. Accordingly,
questions of interpretation and clarification
have arisen. The guideline statements are listed
below with the intention of clarifying these
issues,
Health complaints by building
occupants may have many diverse etiologies,
which may be identified by visual inspection of
the building or by knowing the maintenance
history. Identifiable promoters of fungal
growth require correction, and any visible
fungi require removal.
Ideally, sampling should be done to
identify a situation that is unhealthy for the
building occupants. Although it is clear that
pathogenic and toxigenic fungi can cause
disease, the health risks associated with a
given measured level are, for the most part,
unknown. Rather than trying to quantify health
risks, sampling can be used to indicate the
presence of an indoor fungal amplifier. The
presence of high fungal concentrations, certain
species mixes, and particular individual species
provides the evidence necessary for
experienced indoor air investigators to
diagnose an indoor fungal amplifier.
The nature of the technique used in the
search determines which species are found.
Stachybotrys atra may be growing in wall
cavities but may not be found in air samples
taken in adjacent rooms. Contamination of a
small localized area in a
6
Based on results from more than 2000 indoor
and outdoor samples, a 200 CFU/m3 guideline
for fungal bioaerosols is recommended, because
75% of indoor samples yielded fungal
concentrations less than 178 CFU/m3. A critical
analysis of results is required if pathogenic or
toxigenic fungi are detected.
but the essence of the guidelines remains as
stated in the original document (see Appendix
B), which the Working Group strongly
supports.
1.
2.
3.
4.
Bird or bat droppings accumulating in
air intakes, ducts, and/or rooms
frequently contain virulent pathogenic
fungi,
such
as
Cryptococcus
neoformans and, in some geographic
areas, Histoplasma, as well as fungi of
lower virulence such as the toxigenic
Aspergillus
fumigatus.
These
organisms are not all reliably detected
by sampling air or droppings;
accumulated
droppings
should
automatically
be regarded as
hazardous sources of pathogenic fungi.
Appropriate action should be taken for
the safe removal of any accumulations
of bird or bat droppings.
The persistent presence, demonstrated
on repeated sampling, of toxigenic
fungi (e.g., Stachybotrys atra,
toxigenic Aspergillus, Penicillium, and
Fusarium spp.) indicates that further
investigation and appropriate action
should be taken.
The confirmed presence of one or
more fungal species occurring as a
significant percentage of a sample in
indoor samples and not similarly
present in concurrent outdoor samples
is evidence of a fungal amplifier.
Appropriate action should be taken.
5.
6.
7.
7
The “normal” air mycoflora is
qualitatively
similar
to
and
quantitatively lower than that of
outside air. The number of fungal
isolates in outdoor air is affected by
the sampling technique, the season,
weather conditions, activities, etc.
Published data on the range of
“normal” values in different parts of
Canada are not available, and those
that are available may be based on
sampling techniques unlikely to be
applied in modern indoor studies.
If more than 50 CFU/m3 (in either
indoor or outdoor air) of a single
species (other than Cladosporium or
Alternaria spp.) are detected, there
may be reason for concern. Further
investigation should be considered if a
repeat sample confirms the finding and
establishes that it is based on an indoor
source. (As the sampling error is high
for low colony counts, repeated
sampling can reduce variability of the
results and assist in distinguishing
situations that warrant action.)
Up to 150 CFU/m3 is acceptable if
there is a mixture of species reflective
of the outdoor air spores. Higher
counts suggest dirty or inefficient air
filters or other problems.
Up to 500 CFU/m3 is acceptable in
summer if the species present are
primarily Cladosporium or other tree
or leaf fungi. Values higher than this
may indicate failure of the filters or
contamination in the building.
8.
The visible presence of fungi on
mouldy ceiling tiles, humidifiers,
diffusers, air supply ducts, or other
surfaces (including microscopically
visible fungi in humidifiers) requires
investigation and remedial action
regardless of the airborne spore load.
9.
8
The sensitivity of air sampling for the
detection of fungal amplifiers is
imperfect, and false negative results
can occur; some species are detected
particularly poorly. If a fungal
amplifier is suspected, other means of
investigation should be used, as
described elsewhere in this document.
IV.
Recommended Procedures
for the Investigation and
Interpretation of Indoor
Fungal Contamination
4.1
Background
1. PHASE I — Assessing the magnitude of
health problems and taking the building
history: An estimate of the prevalence and
severity of health problems may be
obtained from discussions with managers,
employees, union representatives, joint
occupational health and safety committees,
and building maintenance staff. Advice
should be sought from knowledgeable
health professionals. Health questionnaires
are sometimes used as a tool to assemble
more comprehensive information. The
value of such data is reduced by the fact
that in so-called healthy buildings, a
significant minority of occupants will
describe symptoms that they attribute to
the building environment. During this
phase, the contamination status of the
building is not expected to be altered by
the actions taken by the investigative team.
2. PHASE II — Identifying problems in the
building environment: Fungi require water
and nutrients for growth and proliferation.
They are most often found in buildings in
which there is excess moisture, often in the
presence of water-damaged material.
Humidity may be high. There may be
visible condensation on windows.
Colonization of walls and other exposed
surfaces may be visible. There may be a
distinctive fungal odour. Investigators
should look for areas in buildings where
moisture and substrates may encourage
fungal growth — for example, areas
containing
A safe workplace is mandated by law
in Canada under various legislative
frameworks. These include various provincial
occupational health and safety acts, the
Worker's Right-to-Know, the Workplace
Hazardous Materials Information System
(WHMIS), the Canada Labour Code, and
Transport Canada's Transportation of
Dangerous Goods (TDG) Act and
Regulations. It is of paramount importance to
have an operating procedure that will protect
the health and safety of visitors, occupants,
and the general public, as well as the workers
performing their duties in the investigation of
possible fungal contamination in public
buildings (excluding hospitals and industrial
workplaces).
4.2
General Principles
The guiding principle is to ensure that
work or procedures during the investigative or
remedial phase do not contribute to further
contamination of the public building and do
not endager the health and safety of building
occupants. This is a multi-stage process, and,
as the investigation proceeds, employees and
occupants must be kept informed on a
continuing basis. (For further details, see
Appendix C.)
Procedures for the investigation of
possible mycological contamination in indoor
air can be grouped broadly into the following
six phases:
9
cellulose material (paper, cardboard,
wood, etc.), air filters, heat exchangers
(condensation
on cooling coils),
humidifiers, water sumps, perimeter
heating and cooling units, wetted carpet,
porous lining materials, etc. An attempt
should be made to correlate these
conditions with high-symptom areas and
to designate possible hot spots of
contamination. During this phase, the
contamination status of the building is not
expected to be altered by the actions taken
by the investigative team.
3. PHASE III — Sampling (see also
Appendix D):
a. Transparent tape surface sampling.
b. Scrapings of contaminated materials.
c. Routine air sampling.
d. Bulk sampling.
During this phase, the contamination
status of the building is not expected to be
altered by the actions taken by the
investigative team.
4. PHASE IV — Risk communication: Risk
communication has been defined as “the
act of conveying or transmitting
information between interested parties
about the levels of health or environmental
risks; the significance or meaning of such
risks; or decisions, actions or policies
aimed at managing or controlling such
risks.”31 Lines of communication between
building occupants, workplace health and
safety officials, building managers and
owners,
employers,
and
union
representatives should be established as
soon as health complaints related to indoor
air quality are received. Steps for
investigation of the source of the problem
should be presented and agreed to by all
parties involved. If fungal contamination is
detected, discussions should occur on the
health hazards and remedial measures to
be carried out. Individuals involved in the
investigation and remediation should have
received appropriate training as required
by the Occupational Health and Safety Act
appropriate to the particular province and
WHMIS. Building occupants should be
kept up to date during the investigative,
remedial, and follow-up stages. Detailed
information on effective communication
strategies for dealing with indoor air
quality problems is available.2,32,33 During
this phase, the contamination status of the
building is not expected to be altered by
the actions taken by the investigative team.
5. PHASE V — Destructive testing:
Destructive testing occurs when certain
structures of the building have to be taken
apart in an attempt to locate the source of
suspected contamination. During this
phase, the contamination status of the
building is expected to be altered by the
actions taken by the investigative team,
possibly through exposure of previously
cryptic contaminants and redistribution of
such contaminants via the HVAC system
or by other means. All individuals within
the building should be protected from
exposure.
6. PHASE VI — Remedial actions:
a. Removal of contaminated material.
b. Decontamination of the HVAC and
other systems as required.
c. Repair or replacement of damaged
materials and/or structures.
During this phase, the contamination
status of the building is expected to be
altered by the actions taken by the
investigative team, possibly through
disturbance of newly exposed heavy
concentrations of contaminants
10
and redistribution of such contaminants via
the HVAC system.
4.3
Sampling Methods
Fungal Amplifiers
for
possibility of non-fungal factors being
responsible for the problem must also be
thoroughly revisited. Because fungi may
proliferate out of sight in ducts and other
hidden sites, particularly in larger buildings
with complex HVAC systems, a negative
visual inspection alone does not allow one to
conclude that problem fungal amplifiers are
absent. Also, a building may contain both
grossly evident and hidden amplifiers. Air
sampling may be the most reliable and
accessible way of detecting fungal amplifiers
that are not seen in initial visual inspection.
Detailed suggestions regarding when and when
not to perform air sampling can be found in
Section 4.4. Also, for further details on
sampling methodology, see Appendix D.
Indoor
Air sampling is very useful in the
assessment of indoor fungal amplification
problems, but it must be used strategically.
When there is no reason to suspect fungal
problems, such sampling is unnecessary. For
example, when a non-fungal cause of air
quality problems is evident in routine analysis,
air sampling for fungi will generally be
superfluous. When indoor fungal proliferation
is considered possible — for example, where
there is a history of high humidity or water
damage or where basic air quality tests fail to
suggest a likely cause of perceived air
problems — air sampling may be considered.
It is no longer used in isolation, however, and
it is not regarded as the sole means of
assessing the presence of fungi. Often,
thorough visual inspection of a problem
building, combined with some surface samples
for microscopic analysis of apparent mould
colonies and of deposits in ducts, may
supplement information obtained in air
sampling or, in some cases, even render air
sampling unnecessary. This is particularly the
case when flourishing amplifiers of aerially
dispersing moulds are found in visual
inspection, leading to the working assumption
that they are the predominant sources of
indoor-derived inoculum in the building. In
such cases, prompt remediation may eliminate
the problem and, if symptoms experienced by
affected persons are alleviated, void the need
for further sampling. Where visual inspections
give negative results (including cases where
some previously visible mould has been
cleaned up) but an air quality problem still
persists, the prospect of doing air samples
must be given further consideration. The
4.4
Protocols for Investigation of Indoor
Fungal Amplifiers
4.4.1 The Purpose of These Protocols
The following protocols are not
intended to be read as background
information, but rather are designed to serve
as “recipes” to assist the investigator in
detecting potentially problematic indoor fungal
amplifiers. Each protocol is numbered and is
referred to by number in the text. This device,
although necessary for brevity and procedural
clarity, may make the text difficult to read
discursively, and it is recommended that a
copy of the relevant section of the Table of
Contents be made and kept to one side to be
used as a guide to the numbers. Each protocol
has a preamble partially outlining its rationale.
The intended user of these protocols is
a knowledgeable member of any of the various
professions (occupational health and safety
inspector, building inspector, mycologist,
health professional, building
11
engineer, occupational hygienist, etc.) who
may be called in to investigate a building with
a possible fungal amplification problem. Such
a building either may be associated with health
complaints or may be a place where mould
growth has been noted visually or detected
through some sort of routine sampling
procedure. No information on fungal
identification is provided here. An excellent
review of the pathogenic and toxigenic fungi
known to be of concern has been published by
Gravesen et al.34
Although it is mentioned elsewhere in
this document, it must be stressed again here
that this material is not intended to assist in the
search for opportunistic fungal pathogens in
hospitals. In that situation, the search may be
directed towards numerically rare types of
fungal propagules; in general indoor fungal
amplification problems, on the other hand,
numerically abundant propagule types are most
often the object of concern. Detection
strategies in the two cases are necessarily quite
different.
Several of the protocols are directed
towards the diagnosis of infestations caused by
Stachybotrys chartarum (=atra). This
particular mould is used as a model for
developing the algorithm for assessing indoor
mould proliferation. It is singled out not
because of its relatively high toxicity, but
rather for purely technical reasons: unusual
techniques are often needed to detect it
accurately. Unlike other toxigenic moulds
associated with indoor proliferation, it
frequently is represented in the environment
predominantly by conidia and other materials
that, although actively toxic, do not grow on
fungal culture media. The majority of conidia
in many amplifiers appear either to be nonviable or to be otherwise inhibited in
germination. Only uncommonly are numbers of
colonies
obtained that give a fair approximation of the
amount of S. chartarum present. In some
cases, air or dust sampling may yield no
S. chartarum at all, yet considerable quantities
of still-toxic conidia may be evidenced on
direct examination of dust or may be found
within a wall cavity of a room whose
occupants have been distressed. The episodic
culturability of this species necessitates several
atypical search strategies, outlined in protocols
#11–#14. Other common toxigenic indoor
moulds tend to be culturable, although in a few
cases growth may be contingent on the water
activity of the media used. Protocols for these
moulds are generally less elaborate.
4.4.2 How to Use These Protocols
Begin at #1 and follow the suggestions
in that section that direct you to other
protocols that may apply. For each protocol
you are directed to, read the short introductory
paragraph(s) and then each of the numbered
subsections below it (e.g., #8a, #8b, #8c, #8d).
Choose only the ones that apply to your
situation and follow them, ignoring the ones
that do not apply. The subsections will tell you
which other numbered protocols to go to.
A suggested protocol marked with an
asterisk (*) is usually a valuable technique that
is very labour intensive, knowledge intensive,
or costly and that would ordinarily be done
only after simpler techniques had proven
unable to resolve the situation. Techniques
marked with an asterisk can therefore
ordinarily be ignored in early investigations
and in investigations that turn out to be
straightforward, lacking unusual complicating
factors.
12
investigation of public buildings should not
normally proceed in isolation from
investigation of other parameters influencing
air quality (see protocol #2).
4.4.3 Symbols and Expressions
Symbols and expressions used in the
various protocols are explained below.
4.4.4 Protocols
#1: Why Investigate?
a) If symptoms are compatible with those
outlined in Chapter 2, then do a visual
inspection (#3) and check the building
history (#2). If these do not reveal an
obvious source of the problem, then do air
sampling (#4) or thorough dust sampling
(#6)*. Also, do examination of settled
materials (#5).
Investigation of a potential fungal contribution
to indoor air problems may follow either 1) the
appearance of symptoms compatible with
exposure to fungal bioaerosols (see Chapter
2), or 2) the detection of potentially
problematical fungal material in a building
environment. Apart from the necessarily rapid
diagnosis and clean-up of gross contamination,
fungal
Symbol/expression
Explanation
*
- optional, thorough protocol, labour intensive, and not always
done, but an option available for the most thorough examinations.
rely on
- do protocol if not done before; if done before, refer to those
results.
remediation protocol
- general protocol for mould clean-up (see Section 5.1).
benchmark or
action level
- established threshold at which contamination exceeds tolerable
levels and action must be taken.
13
b) If there are no symptoms, take no action
unless a moderate to large quantity of
mould is seen (do #2, #3, #7, #8*, #4*,
#5*) or high counts are revealed in
preliminary or routine air samples (do #2,
#3, #5) or Stachybotrys is detected in
preliminary or routine air samples, dust
samples, sampled visible mould or cultured
swabs, surface materials, or contact plates
(proceed according to instructions for
Stachybotrys in protocol #4 for air
samples, #6 for dust samples, #7 for
macroscopically or microscopically visible
Stachybotrys, and #8 for swab/surface
material cultures and contact plates).
Building history (relevant to fungal growth):
Inquire about sites associated with symptoms;
any previous flooding or other water damage;
seasonal humidity; winter condensation;
summer condensation on cold plumbing
fixtures and pipes; frequency of carpet
cleaning, duct cleaning, HVAC maintenance;
humidifier, aerosolizer, or mister type and
maintenance; and long-time colonization of
attic or other areas by birds or bats. Interpret
any water damage seen in visual inspection
(#3) as a historical indicator.
a) The building history suggests there is an
area of readily discernible mould growth
(e.g., water-damaged surfaces or stored
materials, poorly maintained ducts or
HVAC, etc.); perform a visual inspection
(#3) wherever this has not been done
already.
#2: Building History Investigation
Building history (general): Indoor air
problems may have various etiologies and
should not be assumed automatically to be of
microbial origin. Important factors such as
non-fungal chemical contamination (e.g.,
volatile organic compounds of industrial or
commercial origin, tobacco smoke, ozone,
nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide) are
outside the scope of these protocols, as are the
potential effects of sociological issues, such as
labour/management disputes on perceived
environmental tolerance. Also beyond the
scope of these protocols, but possibly germane
in investigated cases, is the evaluation of
bacterial diseases, allergies, and intoxications
(including endotoxin exposure), viral diseases,
arthropod (e.g., insect, mite) allergies,
protozoal allergies, and allergies to any
aerosolized animal and plant parts or products.
A thorough investigation should consider as
many of these factors as may be applicable.
b) The building history suggests there is a
hidden locus of mould growth (e.g.,
previously flooded wall cavity or false
ceiling; previously flooded carpet backing;
unshielded cold water pipes or leaky pipes
in false ceilings; previous fire extinguished
by water, possibly affecting wall cavities;
insulation materials present inside ducts).
In these and similar cases, where symptoms
warrant only, do an extraordinary physical
search (#9). Where a hidden locus of
mould growth is suggested but the area is
not associated with symptoms and is
unlikely to be a source of mould inoculum
to areas associated with symptoms (e.g., is
not connected to vents that may distribute
mould inoculum to rooms where symptoms
have been noted), either take no action or
perform #9b*.
14
c) The building history suggests long-time
bird or bat colonization of the attic or
elsewhere: inspect visually (#3) while
wearing a high-efficiency particulate air
(HEPA) filter respirator, or call an expert.
a) Visual inspection reveals mould or
suspected mould: take scrapings or
transparent tape mount for direct
microscopic examination (#7) and
scrapings, swabs, or contact plates for
culture (#8*). If the attic contains
substantial amounts of bird or bat guano,
consult an expert.
d) The building history is not suggestive, or
information is lacking or incomplete; rely
on #3, #4 (or #6), #5. Procedures #4 and
#6 (air and dust sampling) are relatively
labour intensive and should be undertaken
only where complaints, history, or physical
conditions are suggestive of a potential
mould problem, but where the source of
this problem is not immediately evident
upon walk-through (#3) and microscopic
(#5, #7) visual inspection, or where the
bioaerosol significance of visually evident
mould growth is queried.
b) Visual inspection reveals no mould but
reveals damp materials or areas of exposed
soil as indicated above: rely on #2, #4, and
#5. If a substantial area of exposed soil is
found, ensure that any air sampling
includes samples taken near this area to
probe its significance as a source of mould
propagules. Sample of soil may also be
analysed using the same techniques as for
dust analysis (#6*).
#3: Visual Inspection
c) Visual inspection reveals neither mould nor
apparent dampness or substantial indoor
soils: if symptoms are present in the
building occupants, rely on #2, #4, #5, and
#6*. If no symptoms are present and no
other evidence of indoor fungal
amplification exists, take no further action.
If no symptoms are present but other
evidence of fungal amplification exists,
consider doing an extended visual
inspection (#3); if a hidden building
maintenance problem is suggested, do an
extraordinary physical search (#9).
Inspect for mould growth or water damage on
walls, especially in basements, on window
frames, and on carpets (check backing in
water-stained areas if possible), on ceiling
tiles, as well as on any currently or formerly
damp material made of fibrous cellulose
(wallpaper, books, papers, shredded
newspaper insulation) and all accessible
HVAC components; also check for any
substantial indoor space with exposed soil
such as unfinished basements or crawl spaces,
extensive amount of indoor plants, contiguous
greenhouses, attics with resident or seasonal
birds, bats, or other animals (wear HEPA filter
respirator when checking if building history
(#2) indicates long-term bird or bat breeding
or roosting in attic); and any other likely
mould sources.
#4: Air Sampling
Vacuum/culture devices such as RCS,
Andersen, and slit-to-agar samplers are
recommended for air sampling in public
buildings; note that current Health Canada
guidelines are based on four-minute samples
with the RCS. If no such device is available,
15
settle plates may be used for preliminary study,
but they should be interpreted by an expert
familiar with their limitations and with
common local indicator species of indoor
mould proliferation. Even as interpreted by
such an expert, settle plates may reliably
indicate only extreme (very mouldy, very
clean) environments (heavy or minimal mould
growth after one-hour exposure of a sufficient
number of plates), whereas low to moderate
indoor mould growth may give settle plate
results that are difficult to interpret. See
Appendix D for further background
information on vacuum/culture and settle plate
sampling.
It is critical that outdoor controls be taken well
away from the building being tested or any
similar buildings and upwind of any possible
air outflows. Heavily contaminated buildings
will significantly adulterate “outdoor controls”
and render them useless unless proper
procedures are followed. Outdoor sampling
should take place at least 6 m, and preferably
10 m, windward of the building of concern
(and any similar buildings) if possible;
investigators using electrical devices should
carry enough all-weather extension cord to
facilitate this. Where buildings are closely
crowded, air sampling on the windward side of
the roof may be tried; however, if high levels
of moulds ordinarily associated with indoor
sources are obtained, further investigation
should be undertaken to determine the
prevalence of these species outdoors in the
general area (1 km2) of the sample.
In any case where the indoor environment is
suspected to be the source of mould-related
problems, analysis of air samples should
concentrate on counting and identifying
moulds of indoor origin or indoor
accumulation, not transitory moulds of
outdoor origin. This is accomplished by a
species-by-species comparison with control
samples of outdoor air. Disregard any species
found indoors at a level similar to or lower
than its contemporaneous outdoor level
(exceptions: Stachybotrys, dimorphic systemic
fungal pathogens, Cryptococcus neoformans)
unless other evidence indicates the species is
nonetheless proliferating indoors. Species need
not be named in these comparisons, but
isolates must be recognized as conspecific
based on mycological analysis of macroscopic
or microscopic characters.
In general, well-established, medically
meaningful benchmarks for acceptable indoor
mould levels are lacking; in their absence, the
best benchmark to use for the detection of
indoor mould amplifiers is that no species
should be at significantly greater levels indoors
than outdoors (test significance with chisquared test where applicable). A species more
prevalent indoors than outdoors is usually
proliferating indoors. Only rarely will outdoor
spora sediment out and accumulate indoors to
the extent that species of outdoor origin
appear to be more common indoors than
outdoors. This may, however, occur near large
outdoor composting facilities. Indoor
proliferation usually indicates a maintenance
problem, which may also be associated with
some degree of health risk.
Identification of Aspergillus species,
Penicillium subgenera, and genera of other
numerically significant fungi is recommended.
Minor species present in proportions below
1% can be ignored provided any Stachybotrys,
Aspergillus, or other pathogenic or toxigenic
fungi known to be of concern are detected.
16
Similarly, a species found indoors in a
proportion of total spora much greater than its
outdoor proportion is usually proliferating
indoors and indicates a maintenance problem
(e.g., if Cladosporium cladosporioides makes
up 20% of the outdoor spora and 40% of the
indoor spora, indoor amplification is likely and
is probably occurring in an excessively moist
area). As exposure-related health risk is
currently difficult or impossible to quantify for
indoor moulds, a better approach is to use
mould sampling to detect building maintenance
problems and to correct them with the
assurance that any genuinely associated,
mould-related health problems will be
corrected at the same time.
standardized to compose the baseline data, but
also the environments studied (e.g., type of
building, geographic area) should be highly
comparable. Some tentative benchmarks based
on airborne fungal levels in essentially
proliferation-free, normal Canadian office
buildings were originally proposed by Health
Canada2 and appear in a slightly revised
version in the current document (Section 3.2).
Growth media for air sampling fall into two
physiological categories: high water activity
(general fungal growth media such as malt
extract agar or colony diameter restricting
media such as Littman oxgall or rose bengal
agar) (see Appendix D), and low water activity
(medium with high solute concentration, e.g.,
dichloran 18% glycerol agar, used for
detecting fungi growing on very dry material
such as dust components and not growing well
on general fungal media). Since many common
indoor moulds grow on these low water
activity media, their use in indoor mould
sampling has increased in recent years. The
usage of various media in indoor fungal
sampling is further discussed in Appendix D.
Antibacterial
antibiotics
are
usually
incorporated into the media in mycological
studies.
Benchmarks or action levels based on absolute
rather than relative numbers are a frequently
discussed scientific ideal, but most such
benchmarks heretofore proposed are based on
unwarranted assumptions or have arbitrary
elements. In recent years, most authorities
have declined to give uniform and absolute
standards for acceptable fungal propagule
levels in indoor air. Indoor/outdoor
comparisons are generally superior in the
detection
of
potentially
problematic
proliferations. In some cases, counts of moulds
of indoor origin in buildings with air quality
problems have been compared with average
mould levels in complaint-free buildings. Such
comparisons with “normal” airspora levels are
best interpreted in combination with
indoor/outdoor comparison and amplifier
detection as outlined above. At best, studies
comparing buildings under investigation with
results from unknown problem and nonproblem buildings must be interpreted with
caution. Not only must technology be highly
a) Air sampling with vacuum/culture device
shows moulds of indoor origin present and
exceeding the benchmark level (e.g.,
significantly higher than outdoor levels for
same species; in the case of Stachybotrys,
any isolation is above the benchmark and
should trigger further investigation). Go to
#10, and, if any Stachybotrys is present, go
to #4b–#4f and follow the most fitting
choice.
17
b) Minimal Stachybotrys found indoors but
not found in outdoor controls. (Minimal =
a vanishingly small number detected: for
example, a single isolated colony found
under any circumstances, or two widely
dispersed colonies in a large series of
samples from different rooms. Note that
“colony” means an actual fungal colony
observed on the sampling medium after
incubation, not a CFU/m3 in calculation.)
Go to #11.
#5: Examination for Evidence of Fungi in
Settled Materials: Dust, Biofilms, and
Standing Water
Air sampling using culturing techniques has
traditionally been favoured over direct
sampling of potential fungal substrates and
sediments indoors. This type of air sampling as
the strength that it reflects (to a reasonable
degree of approximation) the number of live
fungal propagules a person's respiratory
system is exposed to. Its disadvantages include
its insensitivity to non-viable propagules, its
reliance on potentially fluctuant airborne
propagule populations, its short sampling
times, making phenomena like diurnal cycles
of propagule release difficult to discern, and its
inability to discern the source of indoor
propagules. On the other hand, the direct
sampling of sediments and solid or liquid
fungal substrata may facilitate the detection of
non-viable fungal propagules, the confirmation
of sites of fungal growth, the in situ
quantification of deleterious fungal chemicals
or of chemicals indicative of fungal biomass,
and the discernment of patterns of fungal
propagule deposition over moderately long
periods of time. Note that significant biofilms
and potentially contaminated standing water
ordinarily should not be present in a building
and should ordinarily be remediated
immediately upon discovery. Sampling in such
cases is only to establish possible links
between growth at these sites and airborne or
sedimented inoculum sampled elsewhere.
c) Low to high numbers of Stachybotrys
found (“low to high”: at least three
colonies in a multi-room sample or two
colonies from a single room; or more
colonies found under any circumstances)
but either not found in outdoor controls or
found in outdoor controls at statistically
significantly lower levels (chi-squared test).
Go to #12.
d) Minimal Stachybotrys found indoors (see
#4b for definition of minimal) and also in
outdoor controls at minimal or higher level.
Go to #13.
e) Low to high (see #4c for definition)
numbers of Stachybotrys found indoors and
also in outdoor controls at insignificantly
different (chi-squared test) or higher levels.
Go to #14.
f) Air sampling shows moulds of indoor
origin are absent or below benchmark; no
Stachybotrys is present. Rely on #2, #3,
and #5 (#6*) to detect any temporary and
poorly disseminating amplifiers.
18
a) Initial procedures where symptoms are
absent, analytical resources are limited, or
a preliminary survey is being conducted:
within air ducts and HVAC coils, etc., do
#7 and #8*; visually inspect any
functioning
humidifier,
aerosolizer,
vaporizer, or mister; if water is turbid, take
a sample for microscopic examination
(#17) and culture (#18).
Estimate the number of moulds of indoor
origin, as gauged by species-by-species
comparison with outdoor controls. Species
need not be named in these comparisons, but
isolates must be recognized as conspecific,
based on mycological analysis of macroscopic
or microscopic characters. Identification of
Aspergillus species, Penicillium subgenera,
and genera of other numerically significant
fungi is recommended. Minor species present
in proportions below 1% can be ignored
provided any Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, or
other pathogenic or toxigenic fungi known to
be of concern are detected.
b) Examination for evidence of fungi in settled
materials: dust, biofilms, and standing
water. Rigorous procedure where
symptoms warrant investigation and
resources permit: do all procedures
outlined in #5, as well as #6. Certain
procedures currently under applied
research investigation may become
increasingly used in these investigations,
including fungal ergosterol or glucan
sampling (#15) or, in environments with
mycotoxigenic species present or expected,
direct mycotoxin sampling (#16) or
cytotoxicity testing (#19).
Note that some workers sample dust by plating
it directly on growth medium (often dichloran
18% glycerol medium, which favours the
growth of dust-associated xerophiles), since
making aqueous suspensions may be difficult.
Others prefer to gain an approximate measure
of human exposure to settled dust by
disturbing dusty materials and air sampling
with a volumetric technique. In water dilutions
and in air sampling of disturbed dust, clumps
of hydrophobic spores or conidia may remain
largely intact, yielding colonies that actually
reflect agglomerations of potential colonyforming units. In dilutions where a wetting
agent (e.g., dimethyl sulphoxide) is used, they
may break up and give a stronger appearance
of heavy infestation.
#6: Dust Vacuum Sampling
Collect floor or carpet dust using a suitable
vacuum device; also compare with outdoor
dust control*. On a subsample of bulk dust,
perform direct microscopic examination (#7);
also do dilution series in sterile water or other
appropriate diluent, beginning with a measured
quantity, e.g., 1 g dust suspended in 10 mL
fluid (1:10 suspension), subsampling 1 mL of
suspension to 9 mL fluid to make a 1:100
suspension, and likewise 1:1000, 1:10 000,
and 1:100 000*. Plate 0.1 mL from each
suspension onto high water activity and low
water activity growth media as per procedure
#4, with replication. Analyse CFU/g dust
based on counts on the dilution that has more
than 25 and fewer than 100 colonies per plate,
or a number close to one of these figures.
a) If moulds of indoor origin are present at
negligible levels or below the benchmark
level (see below), take no further action
unless indicated by other procedures. The
presence of any quantity of Stachybotrys
always warrants further investigation — go
to #6b. Re benchmark: there are currently
no proposed benchmarks for
19
such studies, but experimental studies
possibly yielding such benchmarks for
different dust sampling techniques are in
progress. If available, please use. In the
meantime, experienced evaluators may
judge whether moulds are present at
unusual levels suggestive of indoor
amplification, or whether individual species
or species associations suggestive of indoor
proliferation are present. If so, go to #6b.
circumstances) but either not found in
outdoor controls or found in outdoor
controls at statistically significantly lower
levels (chi-squared test). Go to #12.
biv) Minimal Stachybotrys found indoors (see
#6bii for definition of minimal) and also
in outdoor controls at minimal or higher
level. Go to #13.
bv) Low to high (see #6biii for definition)
numbers of Stachybotrys found indoors
and also in outdoor controls at
insignificantly different (chi-squared test)
or higher levels. Go to #14.
b) If moulds of indoor origin are present at
levels indicative of substantial indoor
amplifiers or at levels above benchmark
(see comment on benchmark under #6a,
above) for total fungal count, or if
individual species of concern or ecological
categories (such as toxigenic fungi) of
concern are present, or if species
composition of dust spora suggests indoor
proliferation, then go to the appropriate
subprocedure of #6b:
bi)
#7: Microscopic Examination of Mould or
Dust
Mount dust sample, mould scrapings,
transparent tape sample, or surface scrapings
on a microscope slide with a hydrophobicityreducing mounting medium (e.g., water +
Roccal or other laboratory detergent; 25%
sodium hydroxide; or ethanol followed
immediately by water) and examine under 10×
and 40× for characteristic structures of fungi,
particularly fungi of known concern. In surface
scrapings, a site of active fungal growth, i.e.,
an amplifier, is recognized by the presence of
hyphae and (in most cases) conidiophores as
well as conidia of the same species. Other
fungal sporulating structures such as ascomata
may also be present. Heavy deposits of conidia
or spores alone may signify either heavy
deposition from another source or an old,
inactive amplifier in which structures of active
growth have broken down; alternatively, it
may simply indicate that the surface sampled
has not been abraded aggressively enough to
detach hyphal structures from the substratum.
Moulds other than Stachybotrys are
present indoors at levels considered to be
of potential concern: go to #10.
bii) Minimal Stachybotrys found indoors but
not found in outdoor controls. (Minimal
= a vanishingly small number detected:
for example, a single isolated colony
found under any circumstances, or two
widely dispersed colonies found in a
large series of samples from different
rooms. Note that “colony” means an
actual fungal colony observed on the
sampling medium after incubation, not a
CFU/g in calculation.) Go to #11.
biii) Low to high numbers of Stachybotrys
colonies found (“low to high”: at least
three colonies found in a multi-room
sample or two colonies from a single
room; or more colonies found under any
20
Taking these and any other salient factors into
account, the experienced investigator should
make a judgement about whether the material
examined is from an amplifier. For general
remediation of mould amplifiers, see Section
5.1 of this document. A specialized
remediation protocol for Stachybotrys has
been formulated.28
e) Microscopic mount negative for fungal
structures or nearly so. Take no further
action unless another procedure (#3, #4,
#5, #6*) indicates significant indoor mould
proliferation in other locations.
a) Microscopic mount shows Stachybotrys
from amplifier site: if site is known, go to
Stachybotrys remediation protocol28; if
unknown, or if more sites may exist, go to
7c.
Surface dust culture, swabs, scrapings, or
contact plates will all suffice to detect fungi on
surfaces but will not distinguish between
species growing on the surface and species
that have merely been deposited there as
inactive propagules. These techniques are
substantially interchangeable, and their use
should be tailored to the situation and the
sampling materials available.
#8: Culture of Swabs, Scrapings, or Surface
Dust; and Use of Contact Culture Plates
b) Microscopic mount shows other mould
from amplifier site: clean as warranted,
based on type and extent of mould (see
Section 5.1).
Sufficiently large quantities of dust or other
material that can be suspended more or less
evenly in water can be cultured by dilution
series as outlined in #6. Swabs should be
streaked on high water activity and low water
activity media (see #4) as per normal
microbiological
inoculum
attenuation
procedure (e.g., limiting the original swab
streak to one-third of the plate and crossstreaking with a sterile loop through three or
four partial rotations of the plate). Small
pieces from scrapings, particularly from
mouldy-looking areas, should be suspended in
sterile water; the suspension should be
vigorously agitated or sonicated and plated out
directly on high water activity and low water
activity media. Contact plates should be
applied to surfaces where mould growth or
deposition is suspected and incubated at room
temperature (or, where invasive opportunistic
pathogens are specifically being sought, at
37EC) for at least seven days.
c) Microscopic mount shows no evidence of
an amplifier but Stachybotrys conidia
present, or mount shows evidence of a
Stachybotrys amplifier for which the
location cannot readily be traced (e.g.,
conidiophores from an unknown source
present in bulk dust sample): rely on #2,
#3, #5, repeating or extending if necessary,
and, failing these, #9 or expert
consultation, to locate source. When the
source is found, go to Stachybotrys
remediation protocol.28
d) Microscopic mount shows no evidence of
an amplifier, but significant levels of fungal
material present, or mount shows evidence
of an amplifier for a fungus other than
Stachybotrys, but the exact location of this
amplifier is not apparent: rely on #2, #3,
#4*, #5 (extended if necessary), #6* to
assist in locating amplifier site(s). If an
amplifier is located, go to remediation
protocol (Section 5.1).
21
a) Culture shows Stachybotrys in scrapings,
swabs, or contact plates; to find source,
rely on #2, #3, #5, and #7, repeating or
extending if necessary; failing these, rely on
#9a, #9b, or expert consultation. For
Stachybotrys in dust, proceed as per
#6bii–#6bv as appropriate, or, where
outdoor controls are lacking, consider
proceeding as per #6*. If the original
Stachybotrys in swabs, scrapings, or
contact plates was minimal, seen only as
one or two colonies in a large sample, and
if #9a and #9b fail to show evidence of
Stachybotrys, then do a new #3, #4 (or
#6*), and #5. If these are again positive but
minimal, consult the outdoor controls from
#4 or #6 and proceed as per #6bii or #6biv,
whichever is more appropriate. If the
repeats are again positive but levels rise
beyond minimal, then consult the outdoor
controls and proceed according to #6biii or
6bv, whichever is more appropriate. If the
repeats are negative, then disinfect the site
where Stachybotrys was isolated. If no
symptoms are reported, take no further
action; if symptoms are reported and #9a
has been done, consider doing #9. If #9 and
all other procedures following the initial
minimal isolation of Stachybotrys are
negative but symptoms continue to be
reported, consider monitoring again in 2–3
months in addition to testing non-fungal
potential causes of symptoms.
Section 5.1. Select additional sample sites
in similar or nearby areas and proceed
according to #5, #7, and #8. Reiterate until
no more sites of heavy mould inoculum are
detected.
c) Scraping, swab, contact plate, or surface
dust culture is heavily positive for bacteria
or yeast, with few or no moulds present.
There is a very moist environment, likely
occurring indoors in conditions of high
humidity, flooding, or condensation, which
will also produce mould in less moist
habitats. Rely on #3, #4 (or #6*), and #5 to
detect the degree of mould growth and
sites where it occurs.
d) Scraping, swab, contact plate, or surface
dust culture is negative for mould or nearly
so. Take no further action unless a
previous protocol (#3, #4, #5, #6) has
indicated significant indoor mould
proliferation in other locations.
#9: Extraordinary
Physical
Search:
Examination of Difficult Sites within
Building
Previous flooding may have resulted in
accumulations of mould conidia within wall or
false ceiling cavities, in wall or duct insulation,
on the backings of carpets, or in other
inconvenient locations. Walls and false ceilings
are sufficiently enclosed to serve as humid
chambers promoting mould growth, yet they
are often sufficiently porous to allow the
dissemination of conidia or toxic or antigenic
hyphal or conidial fragments. Actively growing
mould may produce offensive, volatile, odourcausing substances. Flooding history or the
results of air, dust, or surface samples may
suggest
b) Scraping, swab, contact plate, or surface
dust culture grows profuse toxigenic or
allergenic mould but not Stachybotrys: rely
on #7 to confirm growth at sampling site. If
#7 is positive, see instructions for #7. If #7
is negative (e.g., if growth is derived from
small, sedimented conidia obscured by
debris), rely on #2, #3, and #5 to locate the
site of growth and also disinfect the broad
area around the positive sample site as per
22
that easily accessible sites are not growing
enough mould to explain the observed mould
levels or mould-related symptoms, and that a
possible cryptic mould reservoir exists. In such
cases, difficult samples, requiring entry of
ordinarily inaccessible spaces, must be
undertaken.
general spore accumulation. More
stringently, use a rigid endoscope
(borescope) as outlined in #9a or cut an
approximately 15 cm × 15 cm hole in
representative wall sections and inspect
visually. Perform 7, 8* on exposed
interiors, and in particular on suspected
amplifiers.
a) History (#2) or physical inspection (#3) of
the site suggests previous or current
flooding in a poorly accessible site (e.g.,
wall cavity, false ceiling interior, wall or
duct insulation, carpet backing): expose a
representative portion of the environment
(e.g., wall interior or carpet backing) in the
area of concern and perform #7 and #8* in
the newly exposed environment. If
available, a rigid endoscope (borescope)
may be used to examine cavity interiors
with minimal damage; perform #7 and #8*
adjacent to borehole. Where material
suggestive of fungal amplifiers or spore
deposition is seen using endoscope, drill
additional holes as necessary and perform
#7 and #8*.
bii) Ducts: Use existing access openings or a
rigid endoscope (borescope) to inspect
duct interiors. Perform #7 and #8*
adjacent to access hole or borehole.
Where material suggestive of fungal
amplifiers or spore deposition is seen at
a distance from original entry point, use
elongated scraping device or drill
additional holes as necessary and perform
#7 and #8*. Holes can be sealed with a
plug.
#10: Mould (Non-Stachybotrys)
Location and Clean-up
Procedures such as air sampling and dust
sampling do not directly disclose the location
of amplifiers (i.e., sites of indoor mould
proliferation). If potentially problematic levels
of moulds of indoor origin are revealed by
these techniques, the sources of these mould
propagules must be discovered. Stachybotrys
is treated separately because a stringent cleanup protocol has been described.28
b) In sites where no historic information is
available and no water damage is recalled
or seen but where investigation is still
warranted by symptoms or other concerns,
perform one or more of the following tests
with stringency appropriate for the degree
of health concern:
bi)
Source
Wall cavities: A low stringency test is to
check a few representative wall cavities
behind switch face plates. Use an
alcohol-disinfected, flamed, bent wire to
scrape small amounts of material from
back or front of wall cavity, being careful
to avoid electric wires, and perform #7
and #8*. This test is subject to false
negative results if amplifiers are
discontinuously distributed but can detect
gross,confluent contamination or heavy
a) Find the source of (non-Stachybotrys)
mould: rely on #2, #3, and #5 to suggest
the location (follow any procedures
branching from #5); if necessary, perform
extended #3 and #9a* or #9b*. When the
source is found, remediate (see Section
5.1).
23
#11: Minimal Stachybotrys, Source Not
Located, Likele Indoors
One or two colonies of Stachybotrys in an
indoor survey may be the viable
representatives of large numbers of non-viable
propagules, thus indicating a serious level of
contamination. Alternatively, they may reflect
fortuitous isolation from a minor source. In
either case, repeated air or dust samples
analysed by culture may yield a false negative
result. The best procedure to use as a followup to positive cultures is a search for possible
Stachybotrys sources. Only when this search
gives a negative result is it reasonable to
attempt repeat culture samples. This is done to
exploit the possibility that, if significant
amounts of Stachybotrys are present, they may
recur at least some of the time in culture
samples. In other words, when better
techniques have failed, this imperfect
technique may be used because of the chance
that it may yield valuable information.
Stachybotrys occurs on cellulose that has
become moist. Although it may occur indoors
in large quantities on structural materials and
bulk stored materials, it may also occur
sporadically on small cellulosic substrata or in
low abundance in marginal habitats. For
example, a library may contain a very low
number of previously water-damaged books
that may still shed a few Stachybotrys conidia.
A few Stachybotrys isolates in an air or dust
survey may derive from such origins.
Likewise, dust of outdoor origin may serve as
a reservoir for a small number of Stachybotrys
conidia indoors, and one or two colonies may
turn up on indoor surveys even when
contemporaneous outdoor control samples are
negative.
The isolation of a small number of
Stachybotrys colonies is difficult to interpret.
One of the attributes rendering Stachybotrys
distinctive is the low viability of its conidia
encountered in indoor situations. Hundreds of
conidia seen in a direct examination may show
only 2–3% viability in culture. Results from
using only culture techniques alone may
profoundly underestimate the presence of this
organism and therefore its toxic effect. Dead
conidia apparently remain toxic for some time,
as do conidial fragments. Undoubtedly the
decline in conidium viability occurs over time,
and most or all conidia are likely viable when
they are fresh. Yet Stachybotrys material
investigated by indoor mould researchers tends
to show low culture viability. It may be that
this highly toxic material is less likely than
other environmental contaminants to be
degraded into an inoffensive form after it has
lost viability.
a) Rely on #2, #3, and #5 (and, failing these,
#6*) to suggest the site of Stachybotrys
growth. If #3 is negative and #5 or #6 is
positive for visible conidia or culturable
propagules, perform an extended #3 and
#9*; if all tests are negative, repeat #4 or
do #6 (repeat #6 if it was the original
source of Stachybotrys isolation) in the
area where Stachybotrys was detected. If
the repeat test is negative, disregard
Stachybotrys; if the repeated results of
either #4 or #6 are positive but minimal (a
single colony or two widely dispersed
colonies in a large series of samples), rely
on direct microscopy of dust as per #7 to
determine if dead Stachybotrys conidia are
present; also perform #9* or #9a if not
performed already; if no Stachybotrys
conidia or sources are evident, disregard
Stachybotrys. If conidia are evident in #7,
do an extended #3 and #9; if no source is
found in these procedures, call
24
an expert. If #6 is positive for low (three or
more colonies overall or two clustered
colonies; or a single colony in a small
sample) to high, follow procedure #12 if
outdoor controls are negative or #14 if
outdoor controls are positive.
a) If a low-level or distant outdoor
Stachybotrys source is possible, rely on #2,
#3, and #5 (and, if these fail, #6, repeated
if done before) to clarify indoor levels and
sources. If new outdoor controls and #2,
#3, and #5 are negative and a new indoor
dust sample (#6) is positive but minimal (a
single colony or two widely dispersed
colonies in a large series of samples),
consider monitoring on one or more further
occasions; if the outdoor controls are
negative but indoor levels are low (three or
more colonies overall or two clustered
colonies; or a single colony in a small
sample) to high, the likelihood of an indoor
source is heightened; follow #12. If the
outdoor control is positive but the indoor
control is negative, disregard indoor
Stachybotrys procedures (if the outdoor
source yields high levels, consider
searching for and eliminating it). If both
outdoor and indoor samples are negative,
discontinue Stachybotrys procedures.
#12: Low to High Stachybotrys, Source Not
Located, Likely Indoors
The finding of low to high Stachybotrys
colonies strongly implies that an indoor
amplifier is likely to exist. In such cases, it is
necessary to find the amplifier.
a) Rely on #2, #3, and #5 (and, if these fail,
repeat #6 if it was done only once before)
to suggest the site of Stachybotrys growth;
if the source is found, remediate as per
Stachybotrys remediation protocol28; if the
source is not found, perform an extended
#3 and #9 or #9b. If all tests are negative,
repeat #4 or do #6 (repeat #6 only if it was
done once before; if you already have a
result of a repeat trial, rely on that); if the
repeat #4 or #6 is negative, consider
monitoring on one or more further
occasions or, where symptoms are of
concern, consult an expert; if the repeat #4
or #6 is positive, further extend #2, #3, #5,
and #9 exhaustively or consult an expert.
#14: Low to High Stachybotrys, Source Not
Located, Outdoors or Indoors
See comments under #13 on possible
occurrence of Stachybotrys in the outdoor
environment.
a) Controls of previous studies have indicated
that a nearby or relatively high level
outdoor source of Stachybotrys is possible.
Nonetheless, an indoor source also remains
possible where conducive habitat
conditions exist or have existed; an
outdoor amplifier may have served as an
inoculum source for indoor colonization.
Rely on #2, #3, #5, and #9b* to detect any
indoor amplifier; if the original
Stachybotrys-positive controls in #4 or #6
were within 6 m of the test
#13: Minimal Stachybotrys, Source Not
Located, Outdoors or Indoors
See comments under #11 on the significance
of minimal numbers of Stachybotrys colonies.
Note that Stachybotrys is common in certain
agricultural situations, such as decaying straw,
especially in horse barns. Stachybotrys may
also occur on other natural moist cellulose
substrata and hence may appear in outdoor
control samples.
25
established protocol for interpreting $-1,3glucan results from allegedly mouldcontaminated buildings does not yet exist but
is an area of active research.
building or downwind of possible air
outflow from the building, repeat #4 or do
#6 (repeat #6 only if done only once
before; if you already have a result of a
repeat trial, rely on that) with outdoor
controls in more distant, windward (#4) or
normally windward (#6) sites. If new
outdoor controls are negative and indoor
controls are positive for Stachybotrys at
any level, go to #12. If outdoor levels in
the repeat still differ insignificantly (chisquare) from or exceed indoor levels,
discontinue indoor analysis or, if symptoms
are of concern, consult with an expert. If
new outdoor controls are positive for
Stachybotrys but indoor levels are
significantly greater (chi-square), then go
to #12. If new indoor and outdoor tests are
both negative for Stachybotrys, discontinue
analysis.
#16: Mycotoxin Sampling from Air or Dust
In certain cases, significant levels of a
particular mycotoxin may be expected to occur
in an environment, either because of high
occurrence of the associated mould or because
aerosols deriving from a substrate for
toxigenic mould growth (e.g., peanut or corn
dust in the case of Aspergillus flavus) are
suspected to be present. Direct mycotoxin
detection mechanisms ranging from simple
medium tests to complex chromatography and
spectrometry may be used to determine
mycotoxin levels. A large literature exists on
analytical techniques for various mycotoxin
classes, but review of this literature is beyond
the scope of this document.
#15: Ergosterol or Glucan Sampling
Ergosterol is a cell membrane component
(analogous to human cholesterol) that is
specific to fungi. Quantitative analysis of
ergosterol in an environment can be used to
estimate the level of fungal contamination
present. It cannot identify whether this
contamination derives from indoor amplifiers,
sedimentation of outdoor airspora, or fungi in
imported mud and debris (e.g., from shoes,
dog or cat feet). Nonetheless, markedly high
indoor levels generally indicate problematic
fungal amplifiers, and this inference is easily
confirmed with species-by-species analysis of
a small number of air or dust samples. For
further information, see Miller et al.13
In many contaminated indoor environments,
the substances responsible for causing
symptoms are not well known and cannot be
detected directly. Most moulds produce
complex mixtures of mycotoxins and may
produce toxic proteins and irritating antigens
in addition to the classic small mycotoxin
molecules.
Hence,
direct
mycotoxin
monitoring is applicable only where there is a
clear environmental dominance of an individual
toxin-producing species or a special concern
regarding a particular toxin or class of toxins.
An example of such a concern is the possibility
of exposure to aflatoxins, predisposing
workers to liver cancer, in a peanut processing
factory where symptoms and adverse health
effects suggest exposure to mycotoxins.
#17: Humidifier Water Direct Microscopy
$-1,3-glucan is another fungal biochemical, a
cell wall component, that may be measured in
an attempt to assess the total quantity of viable
and non-viable fungal biomass. A well-
Water from humidifiers and misters may
26
contain profuse growth of micro-organisms,
including moulds and yeasts, as well as
bacteria and protozoans. Clean humidifier
water should appear clear. If it does not, the
cause of turbidity may be biological or
chemical. Chemical turbidity usually consists
of a sediment of calcium carbonate crystals; in
areas where water is high in calcium, this
sediment may heavily encrust evaporationbased humidifiers. Chemical turbidity arising
from the suspension of fine carbonate particles
may be difficult to distinguish from biological
turbidity. Microscopy and culture may be used
to make this distinction.
should not be necessary, as the contamination
is dense in significantly contaminated
humidifiers. Indeed, a dilution series (as in #6,
simply dilute aqueous suspensions 1:10, 1:100,
and so on) may be desirable to obtain wellseparated, countable colonies that are
relatively free of overgrowth by antibioticresistant bacteria. Sampling of bacteria and
endotoxin should also be considered.
#19: Cytotoxicity Testing
Dust collected by means of a vacuum device
may be tested directly for toxic components
without targeting particular toxins. A
technique for accomplishing this utilizes a
sensitive cultured human cell line and exposes
it to chemical extracts of the dust.
Water should be taken in a sterile container.
Mounts should be made and examined
microscopically, looking for distinctive fungal
filaments, yeast cells, and conidia.
Centrifugation may be used to concentrate the
biological matter for examination.
#18: Humidifier Water Culture
Miller et al.13 adapted a technique employing
human HeLa cells for dust cytotoxicity studies;
the reader is referred to that publication for
further information.
Water should be plated directly onto any
general fungal growth medium (ideally, media
restricting colony diameter such as Littman
oxgall agar, rose bengal agar, or inhibitory
mould agar) containing antibacterial
antibiotics. Prior centrifugation
Cytotoxicity analysis detects overall levels of
toxins in dust, not just mycotoxins, and the
relative importance of mycotoxins in known
cytotoxic samples must be inferred from fungal
analysis (culture and/or direct microscopy) of
the same samples.
27
V. Remediation and Preventive
Maintenance of Buildings
should be in place for disposal of contaminated
materials (see Appendix C).
Duct cleaning is frequently accomplished
by vacuuming contaminated surfaces.
Conventional vacuuming equipment should not
be used in occupied areas because of the
possibility of transferring the contaminants into
the air. Only vacuuming devices equipped with
HEPA filters should be used if the cleaning is
done inside occupied space.28 In all cases
where remediation has been accomplished, it
should be followed up with routine cleaning
and maintenance.
In some cases, cleaning is not possible
because of the nature of the contaminated
material. Carpets, insulation, and porous
ceiling or wall panels fall into this category.
When these materials become contaminated,
there is no way to determine if fungal growth
has been eliminated by cleaning, and complete
removal of the affected materials is therefore
necessary. Precautions taken during removal
of contaminated materials should be similar to
those followed for cleaning activities.28 For
example, appropriate protective equipment
should be used, and removal of contaminated
material should be done by trained individuals.
As the removal of porous contaminated
materials may result in the creation of
hazardous aerosols, it may be necessary to
isolate the area with plastic sheeting and carry
out the remediation procedure under negative
pressure. This precaution prevents the
transport of aerosols to non-contaminated
areas (see Appendix C). Furthermore,
following removal of the
5.1 Remediation
Strategies for the remediation of indoor air
quality problems caused by fungi are based on
the elimination of conditions that promote the
amplification of these potentially hazardous
organisms. Typically, amplification occurs in
environments where excess water is
available.2,33 This situation is commonly found
in areas that have been flooded or where
condensation has taken place. Air ducts in
which moisture has collected, dampened
ceiling tiles, wall panels, carpets, and
insulation also provide ideal conditions for the
growth of fungi. Remediation of fungal
hazards involves cleaning, removal of
contaminated materials, and modification of
affected environments.
Clean-up of fungal contaminants associated
with hard or non-porous surfaces such as
walls, air ducts, cooling coils, and drain pans
that collect water should be carried out when
the affected area is unoccupied.28 Trained
clean-up personnel should use appropriate
protective equipment such as respirators and
gloves during cleaning activities (see Appendix
C). The use of biocides for clean-up of fungal
contaminants is usually discouraged because of
the potential toxic effects for cleaning
personnel and other individuals who may be
exposed. However, if well-characterized
biocides are used according to manufacturers'
specifications, and if they are properly applied,
they may provide a valuable adjunct to
cleaning procedures.2 The use of household
bleach has been suggested for contaminated
surfaces. Following clean-up, appropriate
procedures
29
contaminants, it is good practice to disinfect
hard surfaces in the containment area with
chlorine bleach and to vacuum the area with a
HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner. One of
the more important aspects of this type of
remediation is the proper disposal of
contaminated materials. This would include
appropriate containment in sealed plastic bags
during transport to a landfill disposal site. If
disinfection or sterilization is necessary, this
can be accomplished with biocides or by
incineration or high-pressure steam in an
autoclave. The replacement of contaminated
materials should be done so as to prevent the
recurrence of the contaminants by eliminating
those conditions that led to their original
amplification.
Many of the indoor air problems associated
with fungi can be remedied simply by
modifying the environment where the
problems occur.35 For instance, moulds do not
require standing water to grow. High relative
humidity (RH) can provide sufficient moisture
for growth on the surface of porous or nonporous materials if the surface temperature is
below the dew point. Fungal amplification
might be eliminated under these conditions by
simply raising the temperature or by
dehumidifying those areas known to promote
growth. Leaky water pipes linked to fungal
growth should be repaired. The absence of
available moisture may be sufficient to prevent
fungal amplification. In practice, removal of
water sources should prevent the growth of
fungi.
Preventing condensation on walls or other
surfaces can be accomplished by redirecting air
flow to eliminate cold spots.28 Condensation
points can also be eliminated by the
appropriate application of a vapour barrier or
insulation. Moisture control is the best strategy
for controlling fungal growth. Therefore,
modifying the environment to prevent moisture
is the best approach for remediation and for
eliminating future indoor air quality problems.
Although remediation is necessary when
fungal hazards have been identified, a much
better strategy is to prevent the occurrence of
problems.36,37 Contamination can be prevented
by thorough routine cleaning and maintenance
and by following some of the modification
strategies indicated above. Prevention of
fungal contamination is one of the most
desirable strategies for risk management.
5.2 Preventive Maintenance
The design, construction, and maintenance
of public buildings should minimize conditions
that allow the accumulation, amplification, and
dissemination of micro-organisms in indoor
air. A wide-ranging discussion on building
preventive maintenance is beyond the scope of
this document, but a few general principles
should be considered in the development of
programs to avoid the development of fungal
amplification sites. Detailed instructions on
preventive maintenance to control fungal
growth in public buildings are available.36,37
5.2.1 Background
The foregoing sections have dealt with
the recognition and the correction of fungal
problems. The context has been that fungi
should not be present above acceptable levels.
Elevated levels of fungi are generally indicative
of amplification sites or poor outside air
filtration. This state of affairs denotes a
maintenance problem that must be located and
alleviated, using the strategies outlined.
However, these can be considered secondary
strategies, as the primary aim should be to
construct buildings that have been designed to
avoid the development of
30
fungal problems. Also, preventive maintenance
programs must be defined and regularly
implemented in existing buildings, with the
objective of safeguarding against the
appearance of fungal problems.
Building maintenance personnel and
building managers should be aware of the
potential health problems associated with
contaminated indoor air, including the
importance of the proper design, installation,
operation, and maintenance of HVAC systems
to minimize the accumulation, amplification,
and dissemination of micro-organisms. Staff
responsible for operating the building systems
should receive intensive training in all
applicable maintenance procedures. The
absence of such knowledgeable staff members
and the low priority often allotted to the
implementation of maintenance programs are
among the most common factors that lead to
the appearance of fungal and other
environmental problems in buildings. Use of
steam is preferred over use of water spray for
humidification.
Areas of potential water condensation on cold
surfaces such as external walls, water pipes,
and ducts can be eliminated by proper
insulation, ventilation, and humidity control.
3. Maintaining a sufficient humidity level:
Humidity should be regulated at a sufficient
level, high enough for the comfort of the
occupants but not so high as to promote
condensation. These criteria are generally
considered to be satisfied at relative
humidities in the range of 20–60%.38 When
establishing RH levels in buildings, the
procedure should follow good industrial
hygiene practices and occupational health
and safety legislation and regulations in the
area of jurisdiction.
4. Facilitating preventive maintenance: Sites
of known and potential water accumulation
should be constructed to readily allow
inspection and service.
5.2.3 Implementation of a Preventive
Maintenance Program
The building operating systems include
all components of the heating, cooling, and
humidification systems and the air handling
and distribution units. The preventive
maintenance program should be directed
towards minimizing fungal amplification sites
by ensuring adequate drainage of sumps and
drip pans, regular cleaning of dirt and slime
from all constituents, and replacement of
filters. The frequency of conducting these
procedures varies with each component, from
monthly to annually. Porous lining materials
should not be present in any part of the HVAC
system.
5.2.2 Building Design Considerations
Several aspects of building design can be
implemented to minimize the amplification of
fungal contaminants in indoor air:
1. Limiting access of the outdoor aerosol:
These considerations minimize the entry of
outdoor fungi into the building air, through
the provision of a tight structural envelope,
of particle filtration of the intake air, and of
climate control to minimize the need for
opening windows.
2. Eliminating sites of water accumulation:
Sites of unavoidable water collection in
cooling and humidification systems should
be constructed to be completely drained.
31
The building constituents include all
components of the building envelope and
interior. Any sources of external and internal
leaks and condensation should be promptly
and permanently corrected. Water-damaged
insulation, ceiling and wall materials, carpets,
upholstery, and other porous components may
need to be removed.
importance of the proper design, installation,
operation, and maintenance of HVAC systems
to minimize accumulation, amplification, and
dissemination
of
micro-organisms.
Information-sharing networks should be
established to assist public health officials and
others concerned about the microbiological
quality of indoor air to quickly and effectively
deal with problems in public buildings. Public
education to increase awareness of the
possible contribution of microbiologically
contaminated indoor air to allergenic, toxic, or
infectious illnesses is essential.
5.2.4 Communications
Building maintenance personnel and
building managers should be aware of the
potential health problems associated with
contaminated indoor air, including the
32
VI.
Recommendations for Future
Actions and Research
During the course of its deliberations,
the Working Group on Mycological Air
Quality in Public Buildings identified the
following issues that should be addressed
before health-based guidelines for the
mycological quality of indoor air of public
buildings can be developed:
1. Detection Methods
Assessment
for
data on fungal spores and other propagules,
mycotoxins, and other volatile metabolic
compounds (e.g., ergosterol and ß-1,3glucan).
3. Health Effects Assessment
Dose–response data on quantities of
airborne fungal propagules, toxins, and volatile
compounds required to initiate infection,
illness, or allergenic response are required.
This information, along with epidemiological
studies, is essential to establish meaningful
health-based mycological guidelines for public
buildings. Health Canada, the Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are
currently conducting such a study.
Exposure
Sampling protocols and analytical methods
for fungi should be standardized. Analytical
methods based on immunological (e.g.,
monoclonal antibodies) and molecular (e.g.,
polymerase chain reaction and gene probes)
techniques should be developed. Standard
methods for the measurement of mycotoxins
and assessment of their toxicity should be
developed, including in vitro screening using
various biological indicators. The limitations
and biases of the selected methods must be
well recognized.
Studies indicate that allergenic effects
cannot always be correlated with the presence
of fungi in indoor air. The use of allergen
extract standards, prepared from fungi
associated with indoor amplification, should be
explored to determine if hypersensitivity
reactions can be related to the presence of
these fungi in indoor air.
2. Reference
Values
Assessment
for
4. Interactive Computer Model
The development of an expert system,
based on the Protocols for Investigation of
Indoor Fungal Amplifiers (see Section 4.4),
should be considered to simplify the
investigation and interpretation of indoor
fungal contamination.
The Working Group also strongly
recommends that the Federal-Provincial
Committee
on
Environmental
and
Occupational
Health
consider
the
establishment of new working groups to
address,
individually,
other
indoor
microbiological contaminants of concern to
public health, such as viruses, bacteria
(including mycobacteria and actinomycetes),
protozoans, and dust mites.
Exposure
Using standard sampling protocols and
mycological methods, bioaerosol data from
public buildings and adjacent outdoor
locations in all regions of the country should
be collected and published. These should
include baseline quantitative and qualitative
33
VII. References
1.
U.S.
Department of Labour,
Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. OSHA indoor air
quality — proposed rule. 29 CFR
Parts 1910, 1915, 1926, and 1928
(April 5, 1994). Washington, DC. p.
15968 (1994).
2.
Health Canada. Indoor air quality in
office buildings: a technical guide. A
report of the Federal–Provincial
Advisory Committee on Environmental
and Occupational Health. 55 pp.
(1993).
3.
4.
5.
Broder, I. Primer on airborne fungi
and other microorganisms for safety
officers of Human Resources
Development Labour Component.
Final report to Technical Services
Division, Occupational Safety and
Health Branch, Labour Component,
Human Resources Development,
Government of Canada, 29 March
(1994). Contract: 1993, File YR82893-049.
Burge, H. Bioaerosols: prevalence and
health effects in the indoor
environment. J. Allergy Clin.
Immunol., 86: 687 (1990).
Flannigan, B., McCabe, E.M., and
McGarry, F. Allergic and toxigenic
micro-organisms in houses. J. Appl.
Bacteriol., 70 (Suppl.): 618 (1991).
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6.
Jarvis, B.B. Mycotoxins and indoor air
quality. In: Biological contaminants in
indoor environments. P.R. Morey, J.C.
Feeley, Jr., and J.A. Otten (eds.).
ASTM Spec. Tech. Publ. 1071,
American Society for Testing and
Materials Committee D-22 on
Sampling
and
Analysis
of
Atmospheres, Section 06 on Biological
Aerosols (1990).
7.
Tobin, R.S., Baranowski, E., Gilman,
A., Kuiper-Goodman, T., Miller, J.D.,
and Giddings, M. Significance of fungi
in indoor air: report from a working
group. Can. J. Public Health, 8
(Suppl.): 51 (1987).
8.
Croft, W.A., Jarvis, B.B., and
Yatawara, C.S. Airborne outbreak of
trichothecene toxicosis. Atmos.
Environ., 20: 549 (1986).
9.
Hodges, G.R., Fink, J.N., and
Schlueter, D.P. Hypersensitivity
pneumonitis caused by a contaminated
cool-mist vaporizer. Ann. Intern.
Med., 80: 501 (1974).
10.
Salvaggio, J. and Aukrust, L. Moldinduced asthma. J. Allergy Clin.
Immunol., 68: 327 (1981).
11.
Sorenson, W.G., Frazer, D.G., Jarvis,
B.B., Simpson, J., and Robinson, V.A.
Trichothecene
mycotoxins
in
aerosolized conidia of Stachybotrys
atra. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 53:
1370 (1988).
17.
Yoshida, K., Ando, M., and Araki, S.
Acute pulmonary edema in a
storehouse of moldy oranges: a severe
case of the organic dust toxic
syndrome. Arch. Environ. Health, 44:
382 (1989).
12.
Tarlo, S.M., Fradkin, A., and Tobin,
R.S. Skin testing with extracts of
fungal species derived from the homes
of allergy clinic patients in Toronto,
Canada. Clin. Allergy, 18: 45 (1988).
18.
Martin, C.J., Platt, S.D., and Hunt,
S.M. Housing conditions and ill health.
Br. Med. J., 294: 1125 (1987).
19.
Platt, S.D., Martin, C.J., Hunt, S.M.,
and Lewis, C.W. Damp housing, mold
growth, and symptomatic health state.
Br. Med. J., 298: 1673 (1989).
20.
Rylander, R., Persson, K., Goto, H.,
Yuasa, K., and Tanaka, S. Airborne
beta-1,3-glucan may be related to
symptoms in sick buildings. Indoor
Environ., 1: 263 (1992).
21.
Dales, R., Burnett, R., and
Zwanenburg, H. Adverse health effects
in adults exposed to home dampness
and molds. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis.,
143: 505 (1991).
22.
Dales, R.E., Zwanenburg, H., Burnett,
R., and Franklin, C.A. Respiratory
health effects of home dampness and
molds among Canadian children. Am.
J. Epidemiol., 134: 196 (1991).
23.
Broder, I., Pilger, C., and Corey, P.
Influence
of
volatile
organic
compounds and other environmental
13.
14.
15.
16.
Miller, J.D., Laflamme, A.M., Sobol,
Y., Lafontaine, P., and Greenhalgh, R.
Fungi and fungal products in some
Canadian houses. Int. Biodeterior.
Bull., 24: 103 (1988).
Smoragiewicz, W., Cossette, B.,
Boutard, A., and Krystyniak, K.
Trichothecene mycotoxins in the dust
of ventilation systems in office
buildings. Int. Arch. Occup. Environ.
Health, 65: 113 (1993).
Di Paolo, N., Guarnieri, A., Loi, F.,
Sacchi, G., Mangiarotti, A.M., and Di
Paolo, M. Acute renal failure from
inhalation of mycotoxins. Nephron, 64:
621 (1993).
Gordon, K.E., Masotti, R.E., and
Waddell,
W.R.
Tremorgenic
encephalopathy: a role of mycotoxins
in the production of CNS disease in
humans. Can. J. Neurol. Sci., 20: 237
(1993).
35
variables on the well-being of workers
in office buildings. Report to National
Health
Research
Development
Program, Health Canada, 31 March
(1993).
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
Health Clinical Center. Guidelines on
assessment and remediation of
Stachybotrys
atra
in
indoor
environments. New York, NY (1993).
Skov, P., Valbjo/rn, O., Pedersen,
B.V., and the Danish Indoor Climate
Study Group. Influence of personal
characteristics, job-related factors and
psychosocial factors on the sick
building syndrome. Scand. J. Work
Environ. Health, 15: 286 (1989).
American Conference of Governmental
Industrial Hygienists. Guidelines for
the assessment of bioaerosols in the
indoor environment. Cincinnati, OH
(1989).
Wanner, H.-U., Verhoeff, A.P.,
Colombi, A., Flannigan, B., Gravesen,
S., Mouilleseaux, A., Nevalainen, A.,
Papadakis, J., and Seidel, K. Indoor air
quality and its impact on man. Report
No. 12. Biological particles in indoor
environments. Commission of the
European Communities, Brussels
(1993).
Yang, C.S., Hung, L.-L., Lewis, F.A.,
and Zampiello, F.A. Airborne fungal
populations in non-residential buildings
in the United States. In: Indoor air '93,
Proceedings of the 6th International
Conference on Indoor Air Quality and
Climate. Vol. 4. Particles, microbes,
radon. P. Kalliokoski, M. Jantunen,
and O. Seppänen (eds.). Helsinki,
Finland. p. 219 (1993).
New York City Department of Health,
New York City Human Resources
Administration,
and
Mount
Sinai–Irving J. Selikoff Occupational
36
29.
American Society for Heating,
Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning
Engineers. ASHRAE Standard 621989. Ventilation for acceptable
indoor air quality. Atlanta, GA (1989).
30.
American Conference of Governmental
Industrial Hygienists. 1993–1994
threshold limit values for chemical
substances and physical agents and
biological exposure indices. Cincinnati,
OH (1993).
31.
Health
Canada.
Health
risk
communication handbook. Health
Protection Branch (1994).
32.
Morey,
P.R.
Microbiological
contamination in buildings: precautions
during remediation activities. In:
Environments for people, Proceedings
of the ASHRAE IAQ '92 Conference,
Atlanta, GA. p. 94 (1992).
33.
Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation. Moisture and air:
problems and remedies. Householder's
guide (1989).
34.
Gravesen, S., Frisvad, J.C., and
Samson,
R.A.
Microfungi.
Munksgaard, Copenhagen (1994).
35.
36.
U.S.
Environmental
Protection
Agency/U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. Building air
quality — a guide for building owners
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Regional Publications, European
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37
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Nathanson, T. Microbial analysis in
office buildings. Technical Note,
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38.
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(1994).
wall protein or glycoprotein, that is a
constituent of one organism and is recognized
and attacked by the immune system of another
organism. The exposed or invaded organism
forms antibodies that bind to the antigens of
the circumambient or invading organism.
Glossary
ACGIH
American Conference
Industrial Hygienists.
of
Governmental
Actinomycetes
Slow-growing
branching
filamentous
gram-positive procaryotic organisms. Some
thermophilic species may cause respiratory
problems or allergic pneumonitis.
ASHRAE
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating
and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
Allergen
An agent that induces an allergic reaction.
Aspergillus
A genus of mould fungi containing over 100
species, approximately 15 of which are
commonly encountered in Canadian dwellings.
All naturally occurring aspergilli are toxigenic.
Allergy
A type of sensitivity to chemical, physical, or
biological agents.
Aspergillus fumigatus
A fast-growing thermotolerant mould that may
cause
opportunistic
infection
in
immunocompromised persons or long-time
asthmatics. Toxigenic and allergenic, it may
also cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis in
chronically heavily exposed individuals and
non-specific respiratory symptoms in
moderately exposed individuals. It is
innocuous to the immunocompetent person
under conditions of low exposure. Its habitats
are compost, dung, and other organic matter,
especially in warm areas with relatively high
nitrogen content.
Amplification
The process of indoor growth leading to an
increased indoor fungal concentration
compared with the immediate outdoor
environment.
Amplifier
An indoor substrate where fungal growth is
occurring.
Andersen sampler
A sieve-type air sampling device that uses a
vacuum pump to draw air through a radial
pattern of 300 small pores, impacting particles
in each of the small streams of air onto the
surface of microbial growth medium. Andersen
samplers with two or six stages separate
particles by size and deposit each size class
onto a separate plate.
Antigen
A complex chemical substance, such as a cell
38
ß-1,3-glucan
A constituent of fungal cell wall suggested as
one of the possible causative agents of adverse
effects in buildings with a history of water
damage.
BRI
Building-related illness. Recognized diseases
with a defined pathophysiology that can be
attributed to airborne building bioaerosols or
chemical pollutants (e.g., Legionnaire's
disease, systemic mycoses, carbon monoxide
poisoning, lung cancer).
Bacterium
(pl. Bacteria) A procaryotic organism,
typically single-celled. Some of them can have
pathogenic potential, others may cause
problems in indoor air quality, especially when
their mode of transmission is through the
respiratory route (e.g., Mycobacterium
tuberculosis, Legionella pneumophila).
Building envelope
The outermost enclosure element of a building.
CFU
Colony-forming units. Small units of biological
material (spores, conidia, hyphal fragments)
capable of giving rise to individual colonies on
growth medium.
Bioaerosol
An airborne dispersion of particles containing
whole or parts of biological entities, such as
bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, protozoans,
actinomycetes, fungi, fecal elements or body
parts of dust mites and other arthropods such
as cockroaches, and animal fur, skin scales,
dander, hair, saliva, and urine.
Conidia
A term referring to the asexual spores of most
types of mould (Hyphomycetes and
Coelomycetes). These are much more common
in air than are the more specialized sexual
spores released by some of the same mould
organisms.
Biocide
A chemical agent that kills a biological entity.
Some common biocides are sodium
hypochlorite,
quaternary
ammonium
compounds,
formaldehyde,
hydrogen
peroxide,
alcohols,
phenolics,
and
glutaraldehydes.
Conidiophore
The specialized branch producing the conidia
of a mould fungus. Seeing conidiophores in
direct microscopy of indoor materials indicates
the mould is actually growing and reproducing
in the site sampled.
Biofilm
A thin layer of micro-organisms growing
across moist surfaces such as moist duct
interiors and producing an adherent organic
matrix.
39
Contact plate
A plate of microbiological growth medium
(e.g., fungal or bacterial medium) designed to
be pressed directly onto a surface in order to
detect microbial inoculum, which, ideally, will
grow on the medium in proportion to the
degree of surface contamination.
Direct slide
A slide for microscopic analyses: prepared
from materials removed directly from
contaminated surfaces without being subjected
to interim culture or other amplification
techniques.
Dust mites
Microscopic arthropod species common in the
indoor environment. An important indoor
allergen
(e.g.,
Dermatophagoides
pteronyssinus, Glycophagus spp.).
Containment
A safe condition brought about by effecting a
barrier to microbial transmission. A
containment device may consist of a standalone piece of equipment, a facility within a
building, or a whole building that has the
necessary engineering controls to keep
biohazardous agents from escape.
Endotoxin
A lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component of the
membrane of gram-negative bacteria and algae
that is heat stable (resists autoclave conditions)
and toxic. A secreted toxin will be an
exotoxin.
Cryptococcus neoformans
A pathogenic yeast growing in accumulated
bird (usually pigeon) or bat dung and causing
cryptococcosis in heavily exposed or
immunocompromised individuals.
Ergosterol
A membrane sterol specific for most fungi and
not significantly produced by higher animals or
plants.
Culture
Cultivation of a micro-organism in a confined
vessel: a technique employed to allow the
sample material to multiply in number in order
to facilitate its identification and assessment.
FEV1
Forced expiratory volume in one second. The
volume of air expelled in one second during a
forced expiration from a full inspiration.
Dimorphic systemic fungal pathogen
One of a small number of specialized, virulent
fungal pathogens growing in a mould form at
room temperature and as a particulate phase
(budding yeast, fission yeast, or spherule) at
37EC in the host or on specialized growth
media. Blastomyces dermatitidis, causal agent
of
blastomycosis,
and
Histoplasma
capsulatum, agent of histoplasmosis, are
native to Canada.
Filamentous
A tubular, apically extending, branched growth
form characteristic of certain micro-organisms.
In vernacular usage, differentiated fungal
Fungal spores
40
reproductive structures such as conidia,
chlamydospores, ascospores, etc., which
facilitate dissemination and propagation. These
are generally more resistant to adverse
conditions than their corresponding vegetative
state. A more restrictive definition of the term
is adhered to in mycological technical
literature: it refers only to propagules formed
by a process of “free cell formation,” i.e., from
a nucleus initiating an entirely new cell wall
from cytoplasmic material.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
A chronic respiratory distress syndrome
characterized by a type III (delayed type)
allergic response to an immunosensitizing
substance. Usually prolonged, heavy exposure
to the allergic stimulus precedes development
of the syndrome in susceptible individuals.
Other equally heavily exposed individuals may
fail to develop the syndrome, despite
manifesting a strong immunological response
to the prevalent antigens.
Fungus
(pl. Fungi) A kingdom of organisms (equal in
rank to the Plant Kingdom or the Animal
Kingdom), defined technically as a parasitic or
saprobic, filamentous or single-celled
eucaryotic organism, devoid of chlorophyll and
characterized by heterotrophic growth,
production of extracellular enzymes, and a
distinctive L-lysine biosynthesis pathway.
Fungi (e.g., moulds, yeasts, mushrooms) may
cause indoor air quality problems through the
dissemination of conidia, spores, toxins, or cell
wall constituents.
Hypha
(pl. Hyphae) A branching tubular structure
that forms the vegetative body of a growing
filamentous fungus.
Hypochlorite
The ion that is the active ingredient in bleach,
HOCl!. It is a powerful antifungal disinfectant
but also bleaches many dyes and strongly
corrodes metal.
IgE
Immunoglobulin type E are antibodies that
mediate certain acute allergic reactions.
HEPA
High-efficiency particulate air filters that have
been tested to assure removal of 99.97% of
particles 0.3 Fm in size.
Impactor
A sampling instrument employing impactor
plates to collect inspirable, thoracic, or
respirable particulate matter using the principle
that different-sized particles have different
acceleration and removal rates. The impactor
plates are located downstream of a sharp bend
just below sharp edge slits.
HVAC
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
41
moniliformin; T-2
trichothecene).
MMEF
Maximum mid-expiratory flow rate. The mean
rate of expiratory air flow between 25 and
75% of the forced expiratory vital capacity.
toxin,
a
Fusarium
OH&S Act
Provincial occupational health & safety acts
and the Canada Labour Code for Federal
Workplaces, which demand that the employers
ensure that the workplace is safe for the
employees and that the workers ensure the
same for fellow workers and building
occupants.
Monoclonal antibody
An antibody secreted by a single clone of
antibody-producing cells. Such antibodies have
the same combining site, the same light chain,
and the same immunoglobulin class, subclass,
and allotype.
Mould
(American spelling: mold) Normally refers to
fungi with a filamentous growth form, often
giving rise to “fuzzy,” cottony, woolly, or
powdery textured colonies. Moulds produce
conidia or spores that are poorly visible or not
visible at all to the naked eye and that in many
species are specialized to become airborne.
Polymerase chain reaction
A technique for amplifying material from a
small amount of DNA segments using
denaturation, annealing to primers, and DNA
polymerase-directed DNA synthesis.
Propagule
Any disseminable fungal element that can give
rise to a new fungal growth.
Mycelium
Mass of hyphae derived either from a single
fungal colony or from a group of associated
fungal colonies.
Public buildings
Offices, schools, etc., but excluding hospitals
and industrial workplaces.
Mycotoxigenic
Producing mycotoxins, specialized fungal
toxins. Many different types of toxins are
included in this broad category. Most are
small, non-volatile molecules such as
polyketides, amino acid derivatives (e.g.,
penicillin), alkaloids, trichothecenes, and so
on. The production of mycotoxins is usually
stressed in indoor air mycology only when
toxins known to adversely affect humans and
other mammals are produced. Each individual
toxin has its own spectrum of noxious effects,
which may be incompletely known.
RCS
Reuter Centrifugal Sampler. A centrifugal air
impaction device for quantitatively sampling
microbial propagules. It uses an impeller fan to
impact propagules onto the agar-filled wells of
a moulded plastic strip lining the inside of the
sampler. It is highly portable and hence may be
easier to use than other equivalent
vacuum/culture devices. Blank strips can be
purchased to accommodate any special
mycological media as required. Some newer
models allow for quantity calibration of the air
samples.
Mycotoxin
A class of fungal metabolites that have a toxic
effect on animals and humans (e.g.,
Respirator
A personal protection device designed to
protect the wearer from inhalation of
42
hazardous substances in the atmosphere.
Sampling
A process of taking
representative analyses.
an
aliquot
Stachybotrys
A genus of toxigenic moulds (Hyphomycetes)
characterized by producing slimy heads of
warted, ellipsoidal, usually black conidia from
clusters of inflated phialides (flask-shaped
fertile cells). The toxins produced by
Stachybotrys chartarum (= atra) are extremely
potent
macrocyclic
trichothecenes.
Stachybotrys lives primarily on damp cellulose.
for
SAS
Surface Air System sampler.
SBS
Sick building syndrome. According to World
Health Organization's definition, consists of a
group of non-specific symptoms such as eye,
nose, or throat irritation; a sensation of dry
mucous membranes; dry skin, rash; mental
fatigue; headache; nausea; dizziness; coughing;
hoarseness; wheezing; or itching and nonspecific hypersensitivity reactions.
Substrate
Substance on or in which a fungus is living.
Thermophilic
Organisms that prefer a temperature above
37EC for growth and survival. Such agents can
grow in temperatures up to 58EC and are
isolated in hot springs, soil, compost piles, gas
furnace humidifiers, etc. This may be an
important group causing indoor air problems
in buildings.
Settle plate
A petri plate filled with microbial growth
medium and left open for a prescribed period
of time so that bioaerosols can settle on it. It is
then closed up and incubated to allow the
growth of colonies of fungi or bacteria.
Toxigenic
A substance or biological entity that has the
property itself or can produce one or more
compounds that have the property to harm
humans or other animals.
Slit-to-agar sampler
A vacuum/culture air sampling device. The
Bourdillon slit-to-agar sampler draws air
through a narrow slit onto the surface of a
rotating petri dish filled with agar. As only one
position on the agar surface is under the slit at
one time, some idea of the temporal variation
in propagule intake can be obtained by
examining the plate. This in turn gives an idea
of the degree of homogeneity of propagule
distribution in the air itself.
Trichothecene
A class of toxins produced by certain fungal
species such as Fusarium sporotrichoides and
Stachybotrys chartarum (= atra). These
mycotoxins cause severe health effects in
humans
and
other
animals
(e.g.,
deoxynivalenol, or DON; vomitoxin; nivalenol;
T-2; HT-2; diacetoxyscirpenol, or DAS).
onto culture media.
Vacuum/culture technique
Air samplers that sample mould propagules by
means of a vacuum drawing airborne matter
VOC
43
Volatile organic compounds. Some VOCs are
of industrial origin, such as compounds that
evaporate from housekeeping or maintenance
products used or in storage. Others are
produced by certain micro-organisms,
including 1-octen-3-ol, 2-pentanol, and
3-methyl-2-butanol.
Xerophilic
Refers to fungi that prefer to grow in substrata
with low water activity.
Yeast
Yeast is vernacular for unicellular fungal
organisms that reproduce mostly by budding,
although some fission yeasts do exist. This
term is of no taxonomic significance and is
useful only to describe a certain morphological
form of a fungus. Most true yeasts belong to
one of the phyla of true fungi called
Ascomycota (some others in Basidiomycota
and those not yet shown to have a sexual stage
in Deuteromycota). The characteristic sexual
spores of Ascomycota occur in even numbers
(normally eight) in a sac called an ascus. The
asexual spore is a budding cell called a
blastoconidium. Yeasts may be pathogenic,
such as Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, and
Cryptococcus neoformans. Other yeasts are of
industrial importance, such as baker's yeast for
household or brewing use.
Water activity
The molecular availability of water. Water
becomes less available (lower in free energy)
when molecules are ordered by interactions
with solute molecules or capillary surfaces.
WHMIS
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information
System. The legislation ensuring the worker's
right-to-know using three key elements: labels,
Material Safety Data Sheets, and worker
training.
44
APPENDIX A
Human Health Effects of Indoor Fungi
45
Human Health Effects of Indoor Fungi
A.1
Introduction
Several excellent reviews have compiled the myriad illnesses caused by fungi.1–5 The list
includes the major categories of cancer, infection, toxic diseases, and immunologic diseases.
Mechanisms of pathogenesis are equally eclectic. Fungi produce potent mycotoxins, allergens, and
biologically active cell wall components, and spores can induce polyclonal cell activation in vitro.1
In most public and private buildings, indoor concentrations of fungi are lower than outdoor
concentrations, and the species mix is similar. Thus, the health risks of fungal exposure should not
be increased indoors. However, in some buildings there are environments that promote the
growth of fungi, resulting in higher indoor concentrations and a different species mix. This
situation has been associated with adverse health effects in several case reports, usually of
extremely high exposure to toxigenic species.
Apart from these isolated case reports, the population health significance of indoor fungal
contamination is unknown. Mould amplifiers are frequently reported by occupants of homes in
North America and Europe. In a large questionnaire study of Canadian homes, reported indoor
dampness and/or mould growth were positively associated with reported asthma and respiratory
and non-specific symptoms. If this association were causally related, indoor dampness and/or
moulds would be responsible for a significant amount of respiratory illness in the general
population. Improved building structure and function would effectively reduce dampness and
improve the health of our society. Because of its potential significance to public health, research
continues into clarifying the nature of the epidemiological association. This review summarizes the
currently available information concerning the population health effects of indoor dampness and
moulds and assesses the strength of evidence for causality.
A.2
Methods Used to Search the Literature
Data bases searched included Medline (1988–1993), Embase (1988–1993), and BIOS
(1991–1993). Keywords used were [(fungi or mould or mycotoxin) and (respiration or pulmonary
or breath or inhalation) and (indoor air or public housing or public area or public building or
workplace or work place)]. To verify completeness of the search, the keyword “indoor air
pollution” was used by itself for Medline, but this did not contribute further relevant articles.
Several articles and abstracts were obtained by personal communication with investigators active
in the area of indoor mould and dampness. The following types of literature were included:
journal articles, reviews, conference proceedings, technical reports, monographs, and meeting
abstracts. The references of the reviews were also searched for further relevant articles. No
studies of human health effects of indoor moulds and dampness were excluded. All are discussed
with their strengths and weaknesses. Many poor quality studies may still provide useful pieces of
information unaffected by the overall methodological weaknesses. The evidence used to assess
causality was taken from the published series of McMaster University Clinical Epidemiology
Rounds.6
46
A.3
Fungi in Residential Buildings
Epidemiological studies from several countries have demonstrated health effects
associated with home dampness and moulds. The findings are remarkably consistent across
different climates, societies, housing characteristics, and scientific investigators. To allow the
reader to appreciate this consonancy, studies have been grouped by geographic region.
A.3.1 United Kingdom
Melia et al. administered questionnaires to mothers of 191 schoolchildren 5–6 years of age
in northern England and measured relative humidity in the children's bedrooms and living rooms.7
The prevalence of at least one respiratory symptom (cough, chest colds, wheeze, asthma,
bronchitis) was 85% among boys and 64% among girls whose bedroom weekly mean relative
humidity was at least 75%. Corresponding prevalences were approximately 58% and 45% where
humidity was lower (p<0.05, boys only).
Strachan et al. randomly sampled one in three Edinburgh primary schools.8–11
Questionnaire information obtained for 1000 children 6–7 years of age demonstrated associations
between interior bedroom wall dampness and wheeze, cough, and chest colds (p<0.01). The odds
ratio between wheeze and bedroom mould was 3.00 after adjusting for housing tenure, household
smokers, crowding, and gas cooking.8 However, exercise-induced one-second forced expiratory
volume (FEV1) decline, measured for 873 children, was not related to reported mould growth.8
Measured bedroom humidity number (n) (n=778) and viable airspora (n=88) were not associated
with respiratory symptoms or with exercise-induced FEV1 decline. Thus, the strong relations
between questionnaire-reported respiratory symptoms and questionnaire-reported home
dampness/mould could not be validated by objective measures of asthma, humidity, and mould
growth. Either the questionnaire ascertainment of mould growth and symptoms created an
artifactual relationship or the objective measures of asthma were less sensitive than the
questionnaire: the within-subject coefficient of FEV1 variation was 8.5%, and only 40 of 873
children demonstrated an FEV1 decline of at least 20%. Relative humidity in a room may not
accurately reflect damp (and mouldy) micro-environments. Airspora measurements are highly
variable, as physical activity within the room will render settled dust and spores airborne. If
species identification is not performed, the total spore count will represent a variable combination
of toxigenic and non-toxigenic species. Using total spore counts with varying toxigenicity will
obscure any existing association between toxigenic fungi and health.
Martin and colleagues studied 358 tenants of Edinburgh flats constructed in the 1930s and
1960s.12 Children's and adults' respiratory symptoms were obtained by questionnaire completed by
an adult woman tenant. Inspectors measured the humidity inside the home and recorded signs of
dampness, mould, and condensation. Damp homes were associated with more respiratory
problems, aches and pains, diarrhea, and headaches among children but not among adults. At least
one respiratory problem over the previous two months was reported in 85% of children living in
damp homes as opposed to 60% in homes not considered damp. A subsequent and larger study
(n=597 households) by the same investigators found associations for adults between home
dampness and moulds and the following symptoms: bad nerves,
47
aching joints, nausea and vomiting, backache, blocked nose, fainting spells, constipation, and
breathlessness (p<0.05).13 The last symptom was also associated with indoor total air spore
counts (p=0.019). No significant differences in psychological distress measured by questionnaire
were found between residents living in “damp” and “dry” homes.
Hyndman studied 345 British Bengalis living in 60 publicly owned flats.14 Visible mould
growth was present in one-half of the centrally heated homes and all of those non-centrally
heated. Generally, respiratory and other non-specific symptoms, but not peak flows, were
associated with average weekly humidity, temperature, and percent mould cover in the most
severely affected room, with odds ratios approximating 2. Total spore counts, taken over 15
minutes, were associated only with reported depression.
A.3.2 The Netherlands
Waegemaekers and colleagues studied 328 adults and 190 children from 185 homes in a
Dutch coastal town.15 Mean measured spore concentrations were 192 colony-forming units per
cubic metre (CFU/m3) (geometric mean 2.8) in homes classified by questionnaire as damp and 107
CFU/m3 (geometric mean 2.1) in homes classified as dry. When homes were classified as damp or
dry, adjusted odds ratios for adults were greater than 1 for most respiratory symptoms and were
statistically significant at p<0.01 for reported wheezing and allergy. No non-respiratory
complaints were investigated, and the presence of allergy was not considered a potential
confounder but simply an outcome variable.
Brunekreef reported results from two studies of 6- to 12-year-old children carried out in
1987 (n=1051) and 1989 (n=3344).16 Damp stains were reported in 15–24% of homes, and mould
growth was reported in 9–15%. Odds ratios ranged from 1.5 to 3.0 between cough and wheeze
and dampness and mould growth after adjusting for parental education, household nitrogen
dioxide level, and smoking. Maximum-mid expiratory flow (MMEF) was reduced 5.4% in homes
with reported mould (p<0.1) compared with 1.0% in those without mould. Among the adult
respondents of the 1991 survey, the odds ratio for the association between cough and either
dampness or moulds approximated 2.0 (p<0.001), an effect size similar to that of current
smoking.17
Verhoeff provided evidence that the respiratory symptoms associated with home
dampness may be mediated through allergic sensitization to dust mites and possibly moulds.18
From a random sample of 7632 schoolchildren 6–12 years of age, 259 cases (defined by the
presence of chronic cough or wheeze, or dyspnea and wheeze, or physician-diagnosed asthma)
were compared with 257 controls (those without respiratory symptoms) on residential mould and
dampness (as judged by both the tenant and an independent inspector). Odds ratios for dampness
and mould approximated 1–2 for all cases and were approximately 0.5 higher for cases with
elevated immunoglobulin type E (IgE) against dust mites and common moulds. However,
between cough and reported mould, odds ratios increased to 6.4 (95% CI 0.8–49.3) when
restricted to those with elevated IgE to mites and/or moulds. To validate their methods, the
investigators correlated the presence of respiratory symptoms with diminished FEV1, and the
kappa statistics for agreement between reported and measured mould and/or dampness were
0.4–0.7.
48
A.3.4 Sweden
Holmberg studied 33 adults in 13 Swedish residences selected by mould and moisture
problems. Increased levels of airborne Aspergillus (>50 CFU/m3) were associated with increased
reports of eye and skin irritation, cough, phlegm, and common colds.19 A larger questionnaire
study of 4990 Swedish children whose parents were non-smokers found dampness to be
associated with cough, as indicated by an odds ratio of 1.9 (p<0.05).20 Rylander et al. reported an
association between $-1,3-glucan and cough and pruritus.21 Five glucan measures were available,
one from each of five buildings. Thus, the association may be confounded by other differences
between the buildings or their occupants.
A.3.5 United States
Brunekreef et al. studied 4625 children from six U.S. cities.22 Home dampness was
indicated by a positive response to at least one of the following questions: (1) Does water ever
collect on the basement floor? (2) Has there ever been water damage to the building? and (3) Has
there ever been mould or mildew on any surface inside the home? The odds ratios between
dampness and respiratory symptoms ranged from 1.23 (95% CI 1.10–1.39) for persistent wheeze
to 2.16 (95% CI 1.64–2.84) for persistent cough after adjusting for maternal smoking, age, sex,
city of residence, and parental education. The adjusted odds ratios between mould (question 3)
and respiratory symptoms ranged from 1.40 (95% CI 1.13–1.74) for non-chest illness to 2.12
(95% CI 1.64–2.73) for cough. There was no statistically significant (p<0.05) association between
spirometric measures and the dampness indicators.
A.3.6 Canada
In 1988, Health and Welfare Canada conducted a questionnaire-based study of 30
Canadian communities.23–25 In total, 17 962 parents or guardians of schoolchildren received a
questionnaire, and 14 948 (83%) questionnaires were returned. The reported prevalence of home
dampness or moulds in Canadian homes was approximately 38%. The prevalence of lower
respiratory symptoms (any of cough, phlegm, wheeze, wheeze with dyspnea) was increased
among those who reported dampness/moulds. Among the 12 569 children between five and eight
years of age, the prevalences of lower respiratory symptoms were 19.5% and 13.2% in homes
with and without reported dampness/moulds, respectively. The corresponding adjusted odds ratio
was 1.50 (95% CI 1.35–1.67). Among the adult non-smoking questionnaire respondents, lower
respiratory symptoms were reported in 19% and 11% of those with and without reported
exposure to dampness/mould. The odds ratio for all adults adjusted for smoking was 1.62 (95%
CI 1.48–1.78).
49
A.4
Fungi in Office Buildings
Compared with residential settings, there are very few studies of exposure to fungi in
office buildings. Although several buildings may contain thousands of employees, the number of
buildings available for analysis is small. If no buildings with fungal contamination were included,
health effects from fungi would not be expected.
Skov and colleagues carried out a comprehensive examination of 14 municipal buildings in
Denmark.26 Questionnaire-reported symptoms were related to several factors, such as floor dust,
floor coverings, crowding, building age, and ventilation, but not airborne micro-fungi. Generally,
measurements were taken from one site in each of the buildings and generalized to the entire
building and its occupants. The duration of sampling and growth media were not stated. Levels of
airborne fungi were unremarkable, between 0 and 111 CFU/m3.
Harrison and colleagues reported a study of 15 office buildings in Great Britain.27 Using a
six-stage Andersen sampler, the following median fungal counts were obtained: approximately
277 CFU/m3 in the four naturally ventilated buildings, and about 30 CFU/m3 in the remainder.
Although symptom prevalences were lower in naturally ventilated buildings, a positive association
was reported between symptom prevalences and counts of fungi and bacteria.
Tamblyn et al. studied four mechanically ventilated high-rise office buildings in Montreal
during the spring or fall of 1990.28 Within each building, the ventilation was randomized six times
to either 20 or 50 cubic feet per minute per person for one week. Increased ventilation sometimes
increased and sometimes decreased the spore counts. The resulting changes in viable spore counts
explained 36–64% of the variation in symptoms (p=0.06 for the Pearson and p=0.20 for the
Spearman correlation coefficient). This association was seen in only one building, and varying the
ventilation rate also influences many other air quality characteristics, making any change difficult
to attribute to any one cause. In this population, a second study design was employed, comparing
employees reporting work-related symptoms with the remainder of the employees. Fungal spore
counts were 24 CFU/m3 higher in the latter than the former group.
Recently, 43 of 49 New York employees exposed to satratoxin H.-producing Stachybotrys
atra in an office building (>100 000 viable spores per cubic centimetre in sheetrock walls)
underwent a health examination.29 Complaints involved the general areas of respiratory, fatigue,
central nervous system, and skin and eye irritation. IgE specific for Stachybotrys atra was
detected in four subjects. No control subjects were mentioned, making it impossible to determine
if there was an exposure–health association in this descriptive study.
50
A.5
Summary of the Literature
There were 23 publications in the English-language literature from the United
Kingdom,7–14,26,27 the Netherlands,15–18 Sweden,19–21 the United States,22,29 Canada,23–25,28 and
Denmark.27 These represented 17 unique populations; in several cases there was more than one
paper per population.9–10,16–17,23–25 Twelve studies included children,7–11,16,18,20–22,24,25 and 11 included
adults.12–15,17,19,23,26–29 The majority of studies identified an association between self-reported
respiratory symptoms and exposure, whether assessed by the resident, building inspector, or spore
count. In contrast, objective measures of respiratory illness have not been associated with
exposure.
A.5.1 Exposure Assessment
In the majority of studies, exposure took place in private dwellings. Much less published
information was available from public buildings.21,26–28 Eight studies assessed exposure to home
dampness and moulds by questioning the home resident.8,9,15,16,18,20,22,23 Questions used included
signs of dampness or mould, damp spots, evidence of water damage, a history of flooding, stale
odour, and the presence of a wet crawl space, silver-fish, or sow-bugs. Six studies used
independent inspectors,12–14,16,18,20 who assessed homes for the characteristics just listed. Three
studies measured relative humidity,7,10,14 and nine studies measured airspora.11,13–15,19,21,26–28 In
Edinburgh, approximately 50 species or genera were isolated, with 50% of total CFU/m3 being
Penicillium and Cladosporium. Total spore counts ranged from 0 to 40 000, with the median
being about 200 CFU/m3.11 Another study identified the common fungi as Penicillium,
Aspergillus, Botrytis, and Cladosporium, with counts ranging between 34 and 2000 CFU/m3.15
One other study identified Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium, also with median total
spore counts of approximately 230 CFU/m3.19
A.5.2 Health Outcomes
In all studies, self-reported respiratory symptoms were ascertained. These generally
included cough, wheeze, asthma, bronchitis, and colds going to the chest. Occasionally, hay fever
and sore throat were included. Four studies attempted objective confirmation of respiratory
illness, either by resting spirometry or peak flows14–16,22 or by exercise-induced FEV reduction.9
Eight studies assessed self-reported non-respiratory symptoms,12–15,19,22,23,28 which included aches
and pains, vomiting, diarrhea, bad nerves, headache, and fever.
A.5.3 Results
Among children, all studies detected associations between self-reported symptoms and
self-reported mould/dampness. Among adults, similar associations were found in six of seven
residential studies13–15,17,19,23 and one of three office studies.26–28 Sample sizes ranged between 3318
and 14 799,23 with at least five studies having more than 1000 subjects. When exposure was selfreported, associations were always found with respiratory symptoms. The same was
51
true for the presence of “other” symptoms. In contrast to self-reported symptoms, objective
indicators of respiratory illness have never been shown to be associated with self-reported mould
and dampness. Although no one respiratory symptom was outstanding in its strength of
association with self-reported exposure, cough and wheeze were consistently related and often
had the strongest odds ratios, usually ranging between 1.5 and 3. In one study, the odds ratios
increased in cases with increased serum-specific IgE to the house dust mite Dermatophagoides
pteronyssinus and the moulds Penicillium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, or Cladosporium.18 Similar to
self-reported exposures, studies assessing exposure by a building inspector showed associations
with respiratory symptoms.12,13,14,16,18 Two of three studies using relative humidity demonstrated
associations with respiratory symptoms.7,14 Four13,15,19,21 of five residential studies and one of three
office studies26–28 measuring airspora demonstrated associations with respiratory symptoms.
A.6
Arguments Supporting a Causal Association Between Indoor Air Fungi and
Population Health
A.6.1 Fungi Cause Disease
Mediators of disease include mycotoxins, allergens, biologically active cell wall
components, and polyclonal cell activators. Antigenic properties of fungi have been implicated in
asthma, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, extrinsic allergic alveolitis, and humidifier
fever.30–34 Stachybotrys atra, a hydrophilic mould that can produce highly toxic macrocyclic
trichothecenes,33 was thought to be responsible for chronic health problems in a family dwelling.34
The disease symptoms were consistent with a toxin etiology, toxins were isolated from the air,
and workers became ill while removing contaminated materials. Other adverse human health
effects from mycotoxin inhalation, documented in uncontrolled case reports, include renal
failure,35 tremorgenic encephalopathy,36 organic dust toxic syndrome,37 and non-specific
complaints including headache, sore throat, alopecia, flu symptoms, diarrhea, fatigue, dermatitis,
malaise, cough, rhinitis, epistaxis, and fever.12,13,34 Fungal volatiles, typically short-chained
alcohols and aldehydes, account for mouldy odour: 1-octen-3-ol has a mushroom odour, 2-octen1-ol smells musty, and geosmin has an earthy smell.1 Reaction to exposure is variable, from none
to illness,38 but data on their health effects are scarce. $-1,3-glucan, a constituent of fungal cell
walls, may be related to dry cough and irritation of the skin, eye, and throat.21 Relevant to the
residential setting, Tarlo et al. reported that 14 of 26 allergic subjects (rhinitis, asthma) tested
positive, in skin prick tests, to fungi in their homes.32
A.6.2 Toxigenic Fungi Are Present in Indoor Air
Mycotoxin-producing fungi are not uncommon in residential buildings. Smith et al.
employed the MRC-5 monolayer cultures to assay mycotoxins in 83 fungal isolates from damp
public housing in Edinburgh.39 Forty-seven percent of isolates were considered toxigenic, causing
12–51% cell mortality. In a study of 52 Canadian homes, evidence of mycotoxin production was
found in three homes containing Aspergillus fumigatus.40
52
Trichothecene mycotoxins have also been isolated from the ventilation system of three “sick”
buildings in Montreal.41
Epidemiological findings are consistent across geographic regions. Similar health effects
have been consistently found in both children and adults and by different investigators in different
countries using different questionnaires. This association has usually been found whether exposure
to dampness and moulds is ascertained by questioning a resident, building inspection, or
enumerating spores. The Canadian study also showed a dose–response effect.23,24 The odds ratio
for cough was 1.61 (95% CI 1.36–1.89) for the presence of one versus no mould sites and 2.26
(95% CI 1.80–2.83) for two versus no mould sites.
A.7
Arguments Against a Causal Association Between
Indoor Air Fungi and Population Health
Study designs have been cross-sectional in nature, with no evidence for temporality or
reversibility. Home dampness and moulds have usually been assessed by the occupant's response
to questions concerning flooding, water damage, and visible moulds in the house. Although
dampness promotes mould growth, it may also indicate inadequate home ventilation and increased
levels of several indoor air contaminants, from allergens to combustion products. Dampness also
promotes dust mites, which can cause respiratory disease. Bacterial endotoxin has been implicated
in several cases of building-related illness (BRI) involving humidifier reservoirs contaminated with
gram-negative bacteria.31 The majority of studies have ascertained symptoms by questionnaire,
which poses doubts. First, the existence of a group of respondents who generally over-report and
another group of respondents who generally under-report could result in an artifactual
relationship if those who report more respiratory symptoms also report more home dampness and
moulds, and vice versa. Second, subjects ill for other reasons may be more likely than those who
are symptom-free to report the presence of home dampness and moulds in an attempt to explain
their health problems. This could also result in an artifactual relationship. However, Brunekreef,
contrasting symptom reporting with objective measures of lung function, concluded that bias or
confounding was unlikely.16 The Canadian study, however, did not find evidence for (but cannot
exclude) this bias; whether or not subjects had been diagnosed as having allergies or asthma, the
observed association between symptoms and dampness was not influenced. Finally, the measured
relative risks were usually small, less than 2, and therefore relatively susceptible to confounding.
A.8
Summary and Conclusion
Fungi can and do cause a myriad of diseases. Potentially pathogenic fungi are not
uncommon in the indoor environment, and diseases caused by indoor fungi have been documented
in case reports. The burden of illness in the population attributable to fungi in private homes and
public buildings is not yet known. Epidemiological studies have consistently detected an
association between respiratory symptoms and home dampness and mould growth, but causality
in these studies has not been established. Until the magnitude of the population risk is known, it
would be prudent, based on current evidence, to remediate indoor sources conducive to fungal
growth.
53
A.9
References
1.
Flannigan, B., McCabe, E.M., and McGarry, F. Allergic and toxigenic micro-organisms in
houses. J. Appl. Bacteriol., 70 (Suppl.): 618 (1991).
2.
Burge, H. Bioaerosols: prevalence and health effects in the indoor environment. J. Allergy
Clin. Immunol., 86: 687 (1990).
3.
Tobin, R.S., Baranowski, E., Gilman, A., Kuiper-Goodman, T., Miller, J.D., and
Giddings, M. Significance of fungi in indoor air: report from a working group. Can. J.
Public Health, 8 (Suppl.): 51 (1987).
4.
Jarvis, B.B. Mycotoxins and indoor air quality. In: Biological contaminants in indoor
environments. P.R. Morey, J.C. Feeley, Jr., and J.A. Otten (eds.). ASTM Spec. Tech.
Publ. 1071, American Society for Testing and Materials Committee D-22 on Sampling and
Analysis of Atmospheres, Section 06 on Biological Aerosols (1990).
5.
Broder, I. Primer on airborne fungi and other microorganisms for safety officers of Human
Resources Development Labour Component. Final report to Technical Services Division,
Occupational Safety and Health Branch, Labour Component, Human Resources
Development, Government of Canada, 29 March (1994). Contract: 1993, File YR828-93049.
6.
Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University Health
Sciences Centre. Clinical Epidemiology Rounds. How to read clinical journals: 4. To
determine etiology or causation. Can. Med. Assoc. J., 124: 985 (1981).
7.
Melia, R.J.W., Florey, C. du V., Morris, R.W., Goldstein, B.D., John, H.H., Clark, D.,
Craighead, I.B., and Mackinlay, J.C. Childhood respiratory illness and the home
environment. Association between respiratory illness and nitrogen dioxide, temperature
and relative humidity. Int. J. Epidemiol., 11: 164 (1982).
8.
Strachan, D.P. and Elton, R.A. Relation between respiratory morbidity in children and the
home environment. Fam. Pract., 3: 137 (1986).
9.
Strachan, D.P. Damp housing and childhood asthma: validation of reporting symptoms.
Br. Med. J., 297: 1223 (1988).
10.
Strachan, D.P. and Sanders, C.H. Damp housing and childhood asthma; respiratory effects
of indoor air temperature and relative humidity. J. Epidemiol. Commun. Health, 43: 7
(1989).
54
11.
Strachan, D.P., Flannigan, B., McCabe, E.M., and McGarry, F. Quantification of airborne
moulds in the homes of children with and without wheeze. Thorax, 45: 382 (1990).
12.
Martin, C.J., Platt, S.D., and Hunt, S.M. Housing conditions and ill health. Br. Med. J.,
294: 1125 (1987).
13.
Platt, S.D., Martin, C.J., Hunt, S.M., and Lewis, C.W. Damp housing, mould growth, and
symptomatic health state. Br. Med. J., 298: 1673 (1989).
14.
Hyndman, S.J. Housing dampness and health amongst British Bengalis in East London.
Soc. Sci. Med., 30: 131 (1990).
15.
Waegemaekers, M., Van Wageningen, N., Brunekreef, B., and Boleij, J. Respiratory
symptoms in damp homes. Allergy, 44: 1 (1989).
16.
Brunekreef, B. Associations between questionnaire reports of home dampness and
childhood respiratory symptoms. Sci. Total Environ., 127: 79 (1992).
17.
Brunekreef, B. Damp housing and adult respiratory symptoms. Allergy, 47: 498 (1992).
18.
Verhoeff, A.P. Home dampness, fungi and house dust mites, and respiratory symptoms in
children. Doctoral thesis (ISBN 90-9007164/CIP), University of Rotterdam, Rotterdam,
The Netherlands (1994).
19.
Holmberg, K. Indoor mould exposure and health effects. In: Indoor air '87, Proceedings of
the 4th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate. B. Seifert, H. Esdorn,
M. Fischer, H. Rden, and J. Wegner (eds.). Institute for Water, Soil, and Air Hygiene,
Berlin. p. 637 (1987).
20.
Andrae, S., Axelson, O., Björkstén, B.,FrPderiksson, M., and Kjellman, N-I.M. (eds).
Symptoms of bronchial hyperreactivity and asthma in relation to environmental factors.
Arch. Dis. Child., 63: 473 (1988).
21.
Rylander, R., Persson, K., Goto, H., Yuasa, K., and Tanaka, S. Airborne beta-1,3-glucan
may be related to symptoms in sick buildings. Indoor Environ., 1: 263 (1992).
22.
Brunekreef, B., Dockery, D.W., Speizer, F.E., Ware, J.H., Spengler, J.D., and Ferris,
B.G. Home dampness and respiratory morbidity in children. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis., 140:
1363 (1989).
23.
Dales, R., Burnett, R., and Zwanenburg, H. Adverse health effects in adults exposed to
home dampness and molds. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis., 143: 505 (1991).
55
24.
Dales, R.E., Zwanenburg, H., Burnett, R., and Franklin, C.A. Respiratory health effects of
home dampness and molds among Canadian children. Am. J. Epidemiol., 134: 196 (1991).
25.
Dekker, C., Dales, R.E., Bartlett, S., Brunekreef, B., and Zwanenburg, H. Childhood
asthma and the indoor environment. Chest, 100: 922 (1991).
26.
Skov, P., Valbjo/rn, O., Pedersen, B.V., and the Danish Indoor Climate Study Group.
Influence of indoor climate on the sick building syndrome in an office environment. Scand.
J. Work Environ. Health, 16: 363 (1990).
27.
Harrison, J., Pickering, C.A.C., Faragher, E.B., and Austwick, P.K.C. An investigation of
the relationship between microbial and particulate indoor air pollution and the sick
building syndrome. Respir. Med., 86: 225 (1992).
28.
Tamblyn, R.M., Menzies, R.I., Comtois, P., Hanley, J., Tamblyn, R.T., Farant, J.P., and
Marcotte, P. A comparison of two methods of evaluating the relationship between fungal
spores and respiratory symptoms among office workers in mechanically ventilated
buildings. In: Healthy buildings, Proceedings of the ASHRAE IAQ '91 Conference,
Washington, DC. p. 136 (1991).
29.
Johanning, E., Jarvis, B.B., and Morey, P.R. Clinical-epidemiological investigation of
health effects caused by Stachybotrys atra building contamination. In: Indoor air '93,
Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate. Vol.
1. Health effects. J.J.K. Jaakkola, R. Ilmarinen, and O. Seppänen (eds.). Helsinki. p. 225
(1993).
30.
Salvaggio, J. and Aukrust, L. Mold-induced asthma. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol., 68: 327
(1981).
31.
Hodges, G.R., Fink, J.N., and Schlueter, D.P. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis caused by a
contaminated cool-mist vaporizer. Ann. Intern. Med., 80: 501 (1974).
32.
Tarlo, S.M., Fradkin, A., and Tobin, R.S. Skin testing with extracts of fungal species
derived from the homes of allergy clinic patients in Toronto, Canada. Clin. Allergy, 18: 45
(1988).
33.
Sorenson, W.G., Frazer, D.G., Jarvis, B.B., Simpson, J., and Robinson, V.A.
Trichothecene mycotoxins in aerosolized conidia of Stachybotrys atra. Appl. Environ.
Microbiol., 53: 1370 (1988).
34.
Croft, W.A., Jarvis, B.B., and Yatawara, C.S. Airborne outbreak of trichothecene
toxicosis. Atmos. Environ., 20: 549 (1986).
56
35.
Di Paolo, N., Guarnieri, A., Loi, F., Sacchi, G., Mangiarotti, A.M., and Di Paolo, M.
Acute renal failure from inhalation of mycotoxins. Nephron, 64: 621 (1993).
36.
Gordon, K.E., Masotti, R.E., and Waddell, W.R. Tremorgenic encephalopathy: a role of
mycotoxins in the production of CNS disease in humans. Can. J. Neurol. Sci., 20: 237
(1993).
37.
Yoshida, K., Ando, M., and Araki, S. Acute pulmonary edema in a storehouse of moldy
oranges: a severe case of the organic dust toxic syndrome. Arch. Environ. Health, 44: 382
(1989).
38.
Samson, R.A. Occurrence of molds in modern living and working environments. Eur. J.
Epidemiol., 1: 54 (1985).
39.
Smith, J.E., Anderson, J.G., Lewis, C.W., and Murad, Y.M. Cytotoxic fungal spores in
the indoor atmosphere of the damp domestic environment. FEMS Microbiol. Lett., 100:
337 (1992).
40.
Miller, J.D., Laflamme, A.M., Sobol, Y., Lafontaine, P., and Greenhalgh, R. Fungi and
fungal products in some Canadian houses. Int. Biodeterior. Bull., 24: 103 (1988).
41.
Smoragiewicz, W., Cossette, B., Boutard, A., and Krystyniak, K. Trichothecene
mycotoxins in the dust of ventilation systems in office buildings. Int. Arch. Occup.
Environ. Health, 65: 113 (1993).
57
APPENDIX B
Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings:
A Technical Guide, Health Canada, 1993 (Pages 48–49)
Indoor Air Quality in Office Buildings:
A Technical Guide, Health Canada, 1993 (Pages 48–49)
5.2.8.4 Interpretation of Results. Since 1989, the ACGIH Bioaerosols Committee has
recommended rank order assessment as a means of interpreting air sampling data. This
interpretation has been part of the practice in Government of Canada investigations since 1986.
The presence of one or more species of fungi indoors, but not outdoors, suggests the presence of
an amplifier in the building. Species identification is critical to the analysis. Because of the
problems noted above, numerical guidelines cannot be used as the primary determinant of whether
there is a problem. However, numerical data are useful under defined circumstances.
Information from a large data set obtained by experienced individuals using the same
instrument has practical value. Investigations of more than 50 federal government buildings over
several years has resulted in the creation of such a data set. Fungal data from about 600 samples
taken between 1986 and 1991 with a Reuter centrifugal sampler with a 4-minute sampling time
have been used to prepare the interpretation notes shown below. Data acquired with other
samplers require similar analysis. However, if a 4-minute sampling time is used, the numerical data
from any proprietary sampler will probably be comparable.
•
Significant numbers of certain pathogenic fungi should not be present in indoor air (e.g.,
Aspergillus fumigatus, Histoplasma, and Cryptococcus). Bird or bat droppings in air
intakes, ducts or rooms should be assumed to contain these pathogens. Action should be
taken accordingly. Some of these species cannot be measured by air sampling techniques.
•
The persistent presence of significant numbers of toxigenic fungi (e.g., Stachybotrys atra,
toxigenic Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium species) indicates that further
investigation and action should be taken accordingly.
•
The confirmed presence of one or more fungal species occurring as a significant
percentage of a sample in indoor air samples and not similarly present in concurrent
outdoor samples is evidence of a fungal amplifier.
•
The “normal” air mycoflora is qualitatively similar and quantitatively lower than that of
outdoor air. In federal government buildings, the 3-year average has been approximately
40 CFU/m3 for Cladosporium, Alternaria, and non-sporulating basidiomycetes.
•
More than 50 CFU/m3 may be reason for concern if there is only one species other than
Cladosporium or Alternaria present. Further investigation is necessary.
59
•
Up to 150 CFU/m3 is acceptable if there is a mixture of species reflective of the outdoor
air spores. Higher counts suggest dirty air filters or other problems.
•
Up to 500 CFU/m3 is acceptable in summer if the species present are primarily
Cladosporium or other tree and leaf fungi. Values higher than this may indicate failure of
the filters or contamination in the building.
•
The significant presence of fungi in humidifiers and diffuser ducts and on mouldy ceiling
tiles and other surfaces requires investigation and remedial action regardless of the
airborne spore load.
•
There are certain kinds of fungal contamination not readily detectable by the methods
discussed in this report. If unexplained SBS [sick building syndrome] symptoms persist,
consideration should be given to collecting dust samples with a vacuum cleaner and having
them analysed for fungal species.
60
APPENDIX C
Standard Operating Procedure:
An Example for the Investigation and Remediation of
Indoor Air Quality Contamination by Mycological Agents
Standard Operating Procedure:
An Example for the Investigation and Remediation of
Indoor Air Quality Contamination by Mycological Agents
Any procedures involving direct handling and manipulating of potentially contaminated
materials should be assigned only to trained personnel as required by WHMIS [Workplace
Hazardous Materials Information System] and the provincial Occupational Health and Safety
Acts. These individuals must have received information on the possible hazards as well as
effective strategies to protect building occupants and themselves. They must also be reminded to
wear appropriate personal protective equipment prior to entering contaminated areas. In small
scale operations, such as 0.3 square metres or less, gloves and masks with good fit and proper
seal may be used. The affected material should be decontaminated prior to removal. For
intermediate scale operations such as 3 square metres or less, gloves and half-face respirators are
advised. It should be noted that half-face respirators and gloves are strongly recommended for
remediation at any scale if the presence of toxigenic fungi is known or suspected. Procedures that
involve large scale operations, such as 10 square metres, will result in the disturbance of
contaminated materials. Redistribution of these contaminants by the HVAC (heating, ventilation,
and air conditioning) system could also follow. Under such circumstances, the area must be
physically isolated (especially with respect to ventilation) by sheets of plastic and taping.
Engineering controls such as a negative pressure air unit equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency
particulate air) filter and vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are required especially when
remediation is on a large scale. Evacuation of building occupants during such procedures must be
considered. A full disposable suit with head to toe coverage, including a full face respirator
equipped with HEPA cartridges, is acceptable. It is important to note that a chlorine removal
cartridge is required with the use of high concentrations of bleach. When dealing with highly toxic
materials, extra precautions must be exercised during removal of the personal protective
equipment to avoid exposure. All equipment and other surfaces (such as the floor, ceiling, or the
plastic drapes) within the segregated areas must, prior to removal, be surface decontaminated by
treating with a 10% solution of household bleach (laundry or household bleach contains
approximately 5.25% available chlorine before dilution) with an optional addition of 0.1-0.7%
non-ionic detergent for an enhancement of cleansing and penetrating actions. Contaminated
materials should be double bagged and tied for disposal by incineration. A thorough cleaning and
decontamination of the areas immediately adjacent are also recommended. Sampling attachments
and tools must be decontaminated between each assay in order to avoid cross contamination of
samples, rooms and/or buildings.
If there is a necessity, during the investigative stage, to transport a sample of the suspected
contaminant to another location for diagnostic or consultational purposes, it must first be
rendered innocuous. Alternatively, when one is not certain that the sample is
62
dangerous, it should be packaged and transported as a diagnostic specimen under the TDG
[Transportation of Dangerous Goods] Act and Regulations. However, if the sample has been
identified as dangerous to human health and safety, then it must be packaged and transported by a
TDG certified individual under the classification of 6.2.
Reference
New York City Department of Health, New York City Human Resources Administration, and
Mount Sinai–Irving J. Selikoff Occupational Health Clinical Center. Guidelines on assessment and
remediation of Stachybotrys atra in indoor environments. New York, NY (1993).
63
APPENDIX D
Sampling Methodology for Fungal Bioaerosols and
Amplifiers in Cases of Suspected Indoor Mould Proliferation
Sampling Methodology for Fungal Bioaerosols and
Amplifiers in Cases of Suspected Indoor Mould Proliferation
Problems attributed to moulds in indoor air are usually associated with on-site
proliferation of the moulds in the affected building. Only occasionally are mould conidia from an
outdoor source suspected of being potential sources of symptoms. Moulds proliferating within a
building usually do so in discrete locations where moisture and substrate conditions are
conducive. Typical sites of indoor mould proliferation are damp cellulosic materials (e.g.,
wallboard, wallpaper, carpet backing, damp papers); debris in ventilation ducts, in carpets, or in
mattresses or upholstered furniture; poorly maintained humidifiers; insulation on which organic
film has accumulated; constantly humid painted, caulked, or plastic surfaces (e.g., windowsills,
shower stalls, cold air return vents); and potted plant soils. The ultimate goals of diagnostic
indoor air mould studies are:
•
to determine if sufficient mould propagules, particularly those bearing irritating or
immunosensitizing chemical components, are being produced and dispersed within the
building to account for (or predict) symptomatology; and
•
if a connection between moulds and symptoms is likely, to find and eliminate sites of
mould amplification within the building.
These goals are usually addressed through one or both of the following strategies:
•
air sampling (or sometimes dust sampling) to determine the level and types of viable fungal
propagules within building trouble spots, and to suggest the presence of significant indoor
mould growth sites (“amplifiers”); and
•
physical search of likely problem areas to detect conspicuous mould amplifiers.
Further details of these two strategies are outlined below.
D.1
Sampling for Fungal Bioaerosols
D.1.1 Major Types of Mycological Air Sampling Techniques
Air sampling for fungal structures is, at the most fundamental level, divided into
techniques based on the culture of live propagules and techniques based on the trapping and
visualization of living or dead materials. This appendix deals primarily with the former type of
sampling methodology. This is because many situations of suspected indoor air contamination
involve toxigenic, allergenic fungal genera with small, nondescript conidia, such as Penicillium
and Aspergillus. These are often difficult to assess accurately with particle-trapping devices such
as Rotorod samplers and spore traps, where culturing cannot be done and analysis of samples
tends to be biased towards the identification of larger, distinctively shaped, and/or dark-pigmented
structures. Common fungi possessing such large
65
or dark propagules, such as Cladosporium, Alternaria, Pithomyces, and Bipolaris, are often
relatively innocuous fungi, predominantly coming from outdoor sources. Other conspicuous
allergens, such as basidiospores of the bracket fungus Ganoderma applanatum and
ustilaginaceous smut teliospores, may also be counted with unparalleled accuracy, but these are
once again from outdoor sources and have little relevance to the major questions assessed by the
Working Group. It should be noted, however, that Kozak et al. found a Rotorod sampler to be
very useful for visualizing non-viable Stachybotrys, Ulocladium, and Alternaria conidia
emanating from contaminated carpets in homes.1 Although these authors actually located and
identified the problem moulds by a combination of inquiries about water damage, site inspection,
and direct sampling from suspect surfaces, they felt that the Rotorod could be an important
component of a detailed evaluation. They recommended its use in combination with an Andersen
sampler for viable propagules, plus rigorous site examination, history taking, and direct sampling.
The air sampling techniques elucidating viable propagules can be grouped into two
categories: those relying on gravity to effect sedimentation of the mould propagules onto growth
medium, and those based on pumping a measured amount of air onto or through a propagule
collecting device. The sedimentation plate is archetypical of the former category, whereas the
latter category contains a variety of sampling devices. The former will be dealt with first.
D.1.2 Settle (Sedimentation) Plates
A large number of publications substantiate the fact that settle plates elucidate a biased
sample of the viable airborne mould propagules.2 The reasons for this are twofold. First,
propagules have differential settling rates according to their weight and aerodynamic form. Settle
plates are particularly efficient at detecting large conidia in indoor air, whereas the proportion of
conidia belonging to important small-spored genera such as Aspergillus and Penicillium is
underestimated. Second, whereas pumping samplers cause some air disturbance, settle plates are
still. Some disturbance is usually necessary in air sampling to resuspend settled conidia, which
would ordinarily become airborne under conditions of normal human activity in the rooms being
investigated.3 Actual normal human activity substantially improves fungal isolation, even where
pump samplers are used.
Despite these limitations, settle plates are still widely used, at least in preliminary studies,
in remote or impoverished areas, or as an adjunct to physical searching for amplifiers. As semiquantitative samplers, when adequately exposed (a commonly used protocol is for one hour at
tabletop level under conditions of ordinary room activity),4 they can readily be used to discern the
likely presence of significant indoor mould amplifiers (except in special cases, e.g., Stachybotrys
amplifiers). A problematic indoor mould amplifier, if it consists of small-spored fungi such as
Aspergillus or Penicillium, produces a sufficiently large quantity of airborne propagules that these
species show up as a significant proportion of the isolates occurring on a settle plate. The
gravitational bias against these smaller conidia is compensated for by the high numbers of conidia
produced by any significant amplifier (subject to normal disturbance).
66
Some specific sampling deficiencies have been attributed to settle plates by researchers
investigating parameters not relevant to the detection of significant indoor amplifiers. The strength
of this technique lies in the fact that epidemiologically important toxigenic or allergenic fungi,
unlike invasively pathogenic fungi, must be present in large quantities. The quantitative species
distribution of fungi growing in any habitat tends to have an inverse exponential distribution, in
which there are very large numbers of individuals representing a few predominant taxa and very
small numbers of individuals representing each of an indefinitely large number of minor taxa.5,6
Hence, to point out that settle plates tend to grow fewer taxa than impacted air plates2 or that
they detect members of a particular fungal group in fewer sites than do impacted air samplers7 is
not necessarily of practical significance. With adequate exposure times, especially under
conditions of typically low air turbulence indoors, only members of the asymptotic “tail” of minor
taxa are strongly likely to be missed in any given habitat. The best general definition of an
adequate exposure time is that necessary to obtain an adequate representation of the smallest
spore type of practical interest. In indoor studies, this spore type is often the
Aspergillus/Penicillium conidium; the present author finds that the majority of one-hour, indoor
settle plates he receives from putatively mould-affected buildings have members of these taxa as
predominant species. This ineluctable but anecdotal finding needs to be followed up by more
definitive comparative studies.
Published comparative studies between volumetric and gravitational techniques often have
inadequacies. Sayer et al. compared 15-minute samples taken by means of a vacuum sampler
drawing 28.3 L of air per minute with gravity plates exposed for an entirely inadequate, and only
desultorily parallel, 15 minutes.2 Solomon, in a better-designed study, found that 30-minute settle
plate samples showed very little correlation with 1- to 10-minute Andersen volumetric samples,
and that numerically predominant, small-spored taxa were sometimes missed or very poorly
represented.8 Verhoeff et al., however, found a strong correlation between Andersen samples and
duplicate 60-minute settle plate samples in two different studies.4,9 The earlier of these two
studies9 showed that the number of species isolated on settle plates on conventional high water
activity medium (malt extract agar) was not significantly different from that obtained with four
major types of volumetric air samplers. The later study4 showed that settle plates isolated
significantly fewer species than the Andersen sampler but did not comment on whether these
species were relatively abundant or uncommon. No study to date has deviated from the prevailing
focus on abundance and commented on the extent to which different types of samples allowed the
recognition of synecological patterns signifying the presence and types of indoor fungal amplifiers.
Such patterns (e.g., Penicillium brevicompactum and Aspergillus versicolor usually signifying
moist but not currently saturated wall covering paper) can be seen even in a relatively light
deposition of smaller-spored types on a settle plate (or in a light outgrowth of low-viability spore
types in either gravitational or volumetric sampling) and are sufficient to direct further on-site
investigation. Either a heavy or a light deposition of such a pattern indicates the likely presence of
a larger or smaller, closer or more distant, exposed or more concealed, but in any case undesirable
mould proliferation site. Notwithstanding the serviceability of longer settle plate exposures in
detecting these patterns, however, settle plates are best used in combination with a thorough
initial site inspection to detect any macroscopically visible
67
mould growth. (Because of low-viability propagule types like Stachybotrys, the same caution
holds for volumetric samples.) Volumetric air sampling should be regarded as superior and used
whenever it can be made available.
In Canada, the species predominant in indoor mould amplifiers ordinarily form a small or
insignificant proportion of spora in outdoor air samples (except near large compost sites such as
municipal leaf dumps or where abundant dust from stored crops or wood is encountered).
Common examples of fungi strongly associated with indoor proliferation are Aspergillus
versicolor, A. fumigatus, A. niger, members of Penicillium subgenus Penicillium (with a few
exceptions), and black-spored Scopulariopsis species. Receipt of settle plates predominantly
colonized by significant numbers of such fungi is an excellent indicator of potentially problematic
indoor mould amplification. Accompanying outdoor air control plates, exposed sufficiently far
away from the building studied to avoid outflow of building bioaerosols, are strongly
recommended: they are characteristically negative for these fungi.
False negative or ambiguous settle plates may be obtained from buildings with very
restricted mould amplifiers, with very still air in undisturbed rooms, with amplifiers of poorly
culturable species (e.g., Stachybotrys chartarum [= atra]), or with amplifiers consisting of species
with poor airborne dissemination (e.g., Aureobasidium on windowsills, Cladosporium on painted
cold air vents, Fusarium and many other wet-spored fungi from indoor plants, and possibly
Chaetomium). The health effects of the species with low aerial dispersal have been suggested to
be insignificant,10 but, as intermittent or cumulative airborne dispersal of desiccated material may
occur, some wet-spored species may be quite significant. Stachybotrys is an example of a wetspored fungus for which significant airborne dissemination and health effects are well
substantiated. Also, noxious volatiles may be produced by some wet-spored fungi. Little is
known, however, about the health effects of the volatiles of wet-spored indoor fungi; many such
species are not odoriferous to ordinary olfaction.
With settle plates, as with any other culturing of airborne moulds, the most informative
level of interpretation usually requires that the analyst be able to distinguish among the
predominant species and species-groups of the genus Penicillium, Aspergillus, and other
relatively complex fungal groups. Also, if outdoor air controls are inadequate, the analyst must be
sufficiently familiar with the local ecology of moulds and yeasts to detect deviations from their
ordinary seasonal frequency in outdoor air. In Toronto, for example, a high number of Penicillium
subgenus Aspergilloides colonies on a household settle plate in winter is an excellent indicator of
mould proliferation indoors; the same finding in September might be non-diagnostic. Such
interpretation of uncontrolled samples requires a mycologist with some aerobiological baseline
data.
As meaningful analysis of settle plates is based primarily on recognizing the synecological
assemblage of isolates consistent with the presence of indoor mould amplifiers and is only
secondarily concerned with the actual numbers of colonies detected, the problem of establishing
acceptable and unacceptable numbers of colonies in indoor samples cannot be addressed. Any
actions taken against indoor mould proliferation must therefore be triggered by factors other than
the demonstration of a threshold count. Locating and examining any mould amplifiers not
detected in preliminary inspection are logical follow-up steps once settle plates have revealed that
these amplifiers are present. The substrate nature of the amplifier
68
can usually be read from the settle plate. For example, Stachybotrys indicates very moist cellulose,
often in previously flooded or soaked material, not uncommon in sheltered areas behind wallpaper
or wallboard paper growing in contact with the glue. Penicillium chrysogenum suggests crumbs;
Eurotium suggests, among other things, carpets with accumulations of dry skin scales and dust;
Aspergillus versicolor suggests humid wallboard or other humid cellulose, including cellulosic
dust within ducts; and so on.
In practice, common indications for characterization and remediation of the discovered
amplifiers are occurrence of symptoms consistent with adverse reaction to indoor moulds and/or
building management or administrative concerns that such amplifiers might cause symptoms in
future, might indicate or exacerbate degradation of materials, or might cause offence owing to
noxious odours or to the cosmetic, aesthetic, psychological, or political disadvantages of
harbouring conspicuous decay. Once established mould amplifiers have been demonstrated,
managers usually find themselves under strong pressure to clean them up.
D.1.3 Vacuum/Culture (Pump) Samplers
Pump samplers for viable propagules can be broken down into (1) samplers impacting a
stream of air onto a fungal medium surface; (2) samplers trapping propagules from an airstream in
a viscous fluid, which can then be plated on growth medium; and (3) samplers trapping
propagules on a membrane filter, which can be eluted onto growth medium. In category #1 are slit
samplers such as the New Brunswick slit-to-agar sampler, sieve impactors such as the Andersen
and SAS samplers, and centrifugal impactors such as the RCS (details of sampling with these
devices are outlined by Muilenberg; also, see Glossary for information about Andersen, RCS, and
slit-to-agar samplers; see Verhoeff et al. for a chart showing the air intake rates, usual sampling
times, and particle size biases of volumetric and non-volumetric sampling devices and
techniques).9,11 In category #2 are liquid impingers and modifications of slit samplers to deposit
propagules in easily melted glycerol/gelatin gels.12 In category #3 are various assemblages of
pumps and filter cassettes drawing measured quantities of air through membrane filters
impervious to fungal conidia.
A considerable literature exists comparing the efficacy of these samplers. Indeed, until
recently, such studies have greatly predominated over other kinds of studies that might have
predictive value in the analysis of indoor mould problems — for example, studies of the biological
effects of exposure to mould conidia, or studies of the composition of fungal communities
associated with indoor proliferation and related symptoms. Even though much useful information
has been gathered by the analysis of sampling devices and accurate sampling is important, an
overemphasis on this essentially non-biological topic is deleterious. At present, even if propagule
concentrations in room atmospheres were known with absolute accuracy, we would be little
further ahead in understanding the association (if any) between these numbers and symptoms, and
we would not be assisted in the location or remediation of mould proliferation sites. In any case,
correlative statistics should allow any moderately imperfect but reasonably consistent sampler to
yield numbers that could be meaningfully gauged against symptoms, toxin levels, and a variety of
related topics. These numbers must be broken down by fungal group, not given as total colonyforming units (CFU), as the
69
totality of spora includes varying proportions of potentially irritating and relatively benign
particles. (Imagine, as a comparison, trying to gauge the chance of acquiring malaria simply by
counting “total mosquitoes” in any habitat.)
Several recent studies have been performed comparing the sampling efficiencies of
different pump samplers. Most of these studies have embodied some uncontrolled variables: for
example, some fail to standardize the sampling durations and volumes, and many generate data by
sampling in unpredictably non-homogeneous room air. They must therefore be interpreted with
considerable caution, and those interested in this topic are advised to do a more detailed review
than can be accomplished here. A few recent studies are worthy of mention, but the conclusions
mentioned below should not necessarily be taken at face value. Buttner and Stetzenbach analysed
the efficiencies of Andersen six-stage, SAS, and Burkard (suction slit impactor for direct
examination of particles) samplers and settle plates in a controlled room with known
concentrations of Penicillium chrysogenum conidia.3 The Andersen sampler gave the most
accurate and consistent results, but differences between it and the other volumetric samplers were
marginal. Verhoeff et al. did comparative field trials in houses with the slit-to-agar, single-stage
(N6) Andersen, RCS, and SAS samplers.9 The slit-to-agar sampler and the Andersen were
concluded to be the most precise. This study, however, was criticized13 because it did not take
into account the variation attributable to air mass discontinuity over the different sampling times
used. (Total volume of air sampled was standardized at the expense of varying sampling
duration.) Smid et al. similarly compared the single-stage Andersen, slit, RCS, and SAS
samplers.14 Once again, the Andersen and slit samplers were reported to give the best results, with
RCS reasonably comparable; SAS underestimated CFU counts by about 50%. These authors
concluded that the RCS remained useful because of its convenience of use and acceptable
accuracy.
In heavily contaminated environments (e.g., barns), Andersen samplers may suffer from
overexposure, with multiple propagules being counted as one after impaction via the same sieve
hole and with subsequent colony overgrowth. Correction factors have been published for
moderately overexposed plates but are inadequate for heavily overexposed plates. Diminishing the
sampling time is a possible response but has the disadvantage that spatial/temporal discontinuities
in airborne mould propagule distribution may skew results. For example, a 30-second exposure
may fortuitously sample a current of relatively clean air from a window draft not generally
representative of a contaminated room; or, likewise, a short exposure may sample the peak of a
burst of conidia from a disturbed mould amplifier or reservoir and may show numbers well above
those typically found in the room. For this reason, devices trapping propagules in liquid may be
more accurate in heavily contaminated environments. With such samplers, sampling times can be
longer without overwhelming the analytical capabilities of the system. Thorne et al. found that
both impinger samples and eluted Nucleopore filters were more accurate than Andersen samples
in barns housing swine.15 Blomquist et al. modified a slit sampler to deposit spores on agar or
glycerol/gelatin gels and then homogenized or liquefied these gels and plated them out in a classic
dilution series.12 When glycerol/gelatin gels were used, results were comparable to those obtained
using eluted Nucleopore filters.
70
Impingers have not been widely accepted in ordinary indoor mould sampling work. Most
potentially problematic airborne moulds have highly water-repellent conidia that, in contact with
aqueous media, tend to adhere to surface films and hydrophobic surfaces and to clump together in
minute air pockets. Trapping of such hydrophobic particles in impingers is not efficient.11 A
comparative study of Andersen and impinger samplers from a hospital under renovation showed
that impingers underestimated CFU by 90% or more (R.C. Summerbell, Ontario Ministry of
Health, pers. commun.).
In conclusion, for public buildings, various slit, sieve, and centrifugal samplers should give
comparable results. Absolute propagule count is not a realistic sole criterion for building
remediation, as large counts from outdoor air are possible at some times of year, particularly in
buildings with openable windows or with air filters that do not exclude smaller fungal conidia. The
most efficient use of samplers, arguably, should be to detect conidial shedding by indoor mould
amplifiers. Although such shedding may very well result in high CFU counts, and although high
counts in general will be more significant than low counts, certain factors may cause a truly
problematic amplifier to yield low to moderate counts — for example, sampling at a distance from
the amplifier, misleading air distribution patterns, and low conidial viability. Pasanen et al. found
that viable spore counts were sometimes less than 25% of the total spores detected by scanning
electron microscopy in farm and urban homes.16 Other difficulties are outlined by Miller.17 Such
information strongly argues on behalf of using air sampling as a detector of amplifiers and a semiquantitative indicator of approximate bioaerosol density rather than as an absolute arbiter of
indoor air standards.
The relevance of spora counts is greatest where there is a diffuse and difficult-to-access
amplifier present in a building. Two recurrent examples are mould growth in ventilation ducts in
buildings with self-contained air recirculation systems and moulds apparently associated with a
multiplicity of lightly and sporadically contaminated books in a library. In these cases, the idea of
finding a discrete amplifier and eliminating it, the practical solution for the great majority of
indoor mould problems, may be problematic. Although heavily contaminated ducts or books must
clearly be cleaned up or otherwise dealt with (as must ducts or books with confirmed
Stachybotrys colonization), the possibility of lightly contaminated environments is evident. The
traditional question of determining an air contamination level requiring action is relevant in these
instances.
Clearly, it simplifies matters to restrict the analysis only to those fungi associated with the
amplifiers and to exclude fungi known to be associated with any incident outdoor air. (It is
unlikely that indoor and outdoor types will have an additive effect, as their toxin chemistry and
antigenicity will be largely distinct; the possibility of additive glucan effects needs further
investigation.) The difficulty is to know what factor to correlate numbers of indoor-generated
mould propagules with in order to assign health significance to the findings. Essential
dose–response information needed to correlate numbers of fungal propagules of particular
chemical composition to health effects in humans is absent for all moulds, and, as tolerance to
moulds appears to vary biologically among individuals and appears to relate at least partially to
the vagaries of allergic sensitization, acceptable dose information would doubtless be arduous to
acquire even if ethical tests could be devised. Surrogate tests such as in vitro tests for the
responses of human cells (e.g., alveolar macrophages) are in their infancy, and animals lack the
ability to corroborate or disconfirm the persistent, subjective
71
symptoms commonly reported in cases of indoor mould proliferation. The need for objective
measures of adverse responses to mould inhalation is great, and devising such measures would be
an important step in coming up with scientific correlates between spore counts and the need for
remediation of buildings.
This appendix will not discuss direct air or dust sampling methods for fungal biochemicals.
Methods detecting general fungal materials such as chitin, glucan, and ergosterol lack the ability
to discriminate between fungal elements from indoor and outdoor sources. Hence, they will tend
to give unambiguously interpretable single-case results (as opposed to multi-case statistical
trends) only in cases where there is an extreme indoor build-up or where indoor accumulation of
outdoor fungal material is otherwise known to be insignificant. Tests detecting specific toxins or
volatiles may be very useful, but in their specificity they are beyond the scope of this document.
See Miller for a summary of some limitations of sampling for volatiles.17
Dust, carpet, or surface swab samples may serve in place of air samples but may contain
many normally settled elements (e.g., Mucorales; also Fusarium other than predominant species
on local agricultural crops), which in many cases are not significantly present in the air. On the
other hand, dust samples have the advantage of containing a relatively long-term record of the
history of fungal deposition within a building and may thus relieve investigators of problems
posed by the bioaerosol variability of different air currents seen in short-duration air samples.
Further investigation is needed to give criteria for the interpretation of dust sample results, but
results to date show some promise. Swabs may play a useful role in the sampling of patches of
mould growth that have been detected visually, but they are inferior to surface scrapings, as they
tend to select spores and leave conidiophores/pycnidia/ascomata behind.
D.1.4 Media Used in Sampling
The media used in sampling fungal air and dust spora are diverse. They fall into several
distinct categories: generally permissive media of high water activity, designed to allow growth
and in situ identification of a wide range of fungi (e.g., Sabouraud, 2% malt extract agar, V-8
agar); generally permissive media with components restricting colony diameter (“restrictive
media”), minimizing colony overgrowth and allowing in situ identification of at least some fungi
(e.g., rose bengal agar, various high water activity media containing dichloran, Littman oxgall
agar); media of low water activity, with or without factors restrictive of colony diameter, for
isolation of moderately osmotolerant to xerophilic fungi (e.g., dichloran 18% glycerol agar,
Czapek's + 40% sucrose agar, 2% malt extract agar + 10% salt [“malt and salt” agar]); and media
selective for particular groups of fungi (“selective media,” e.g., Sabouraud/cycloheximide medium
for the majority of human pathogens, Onygenales, Herpotrichiellaceae, and Ophiostomatales;
media with benomyl for Basidiomycetes, Zygomycetes, Endomycetes, Pleospora/Cochliobolus
anamorphs, and Microascaceae). At least two apparently irreconcilable dichotomies must be
addressed by the person trying to select a single medium for an indoor fungal study: first, that no
one medium will optimize growth of both the significant fungi adapted to high substrate water
activity (e.g., Stachybotrys) and the significant fungi requiring lowered water activity
72
(e.g., Eurotium, Wallemia); and second, that the best media for identifying organisms in situ are
also the most problematical for colony overgrowth and formation of spurious satellite colonies in
shipping and handling.
Currently, the two most widely used media for general sampling are malt extract agar
(MEA) and dichloran 18% glycerol agar (DG18). The former was recommended by the American
Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (Burge et al.),18 while the latter has been
shown to be useful in a variety of recent studies (e.g., Verhoeff et al.).9 The limitations of MEA
are that it allows extensive colony overgrowth and supports osmophilic fungi poorly; DG18
supports osmophiles well and facilitates growth of the moderately osmotolerant fungi that form
the majority of indoor species of concern (Penicillium, Aspergillus), but it causes poor growth in
moderately osmointolerant fungi such as Scopulariopsis (van Reenen-Hoekstra et al.)19 and may
support Stachybotrys and other highly osmointolerant species poorly or not at all (R.A. Samson,
pers. commun.). A near-ideal sampling protocol might include both media. “Malt and salt” agar
may be a good alternative for DG18: long used for isolation of osmotolerant fungi, it also allows
growth of Stachybotrys chartarum (J.D. Miller, pers. commun.). The colonies of this fungus are
restricted but are readily seen.
In general, workers who, for practical reasons, prefer to use a single medium must be
mindful of the types of fungi they will be excluding from their data.
Because most indoor environments contain a variety of osmophilic Aspergillus species,
DG18 often tends to isolate the greatest number of species in comparison trials (e.g., Verhoeff et
al.)9; if a single medium must be chosen, DG18 may be optimal, but it should not be used alone
except in combination with thorough visual and microscopic visual search to detect excluded
fungal types, especially Stachybotrys. Such physical searching is recommended for Stachybotrys in
any case, since Stachybotrys may be predominantly represented in the environment by non-viable
conidia. Despite this, Stachybotrys is not uncommonly obtained in air samples, and any
investigator wishing to maximize the likelihood of detecting significant Stachybotrys amplifiers is
obliged to consider the use of air sampling with an appropriate medium.
The present author uses Littman oxgall agar extensively, primarily because of its tendency
to repress sporulation and prevent satellite colony formation and colony overgrowth during
shipping and handling in transit from test sites to the laboratory. It grows Stachybotrys well, has
been observed to grow Eurotium (Aspergillus glaucus and allies) in high numbers in at least some
cases (R.C. Summerbell, unpublished data), grows Wallemia occasionally (but probably not in a
good representation of its true population predominance), and does not grow Aspergillus
restrictus and allies. In its only formal comparison test as an indoor mould sampling medium, it
showed significantly fewer colonies than three other media, including Sabouraud agar, at the sixth
day of incubation (Morring et al.).20 The authors conceded, however, that this time period was
too short for a full evaluation. Littman showed that the eponymous medium outperformed
Sabouraud agar over longer incubation periods.21 Littman oxgall agar, however convenient it may
be for shipping, requires much labour, since the majority of colony types must be subcultured for
identification. Further, they must be subcultured soon after plates are received since, as
nonsporulating colonies, they may become non-viable within 2–3 weeks. This medium would
therefore be a
73
suboptimal choice for anyone doing his/her own sampling and mycology or receiving plates or
strips within a day or two of exposure.
Rose bengal agar or its dichloran-supplemented variant are also restrictive of overgrowth
and, while delaying or repressing sporulation to a lesser extent than Littman oxgall agar, may be
relatively robust in shipping while permitting a relatively high level of in situ identification. It must
be borne in mind that rose bengal generates high-energy oxygen species on exposure to light, and
illuminated medium may become lethal to fungi. Dichloran rose bengal agar has grown
significantly fewer colonies than other media in at least one study,9 although this effect was not
observed in others (e.g., Smid et al.).14 Unfortunately, Verhoeff et al. did not record the time
period allowed for incubation.9 Restrictive media in general slow colony growth rates, and, for a
fair biological (as opposed to purely practical) trial, such media should be observed only after
sufficient incubation to ensure maximal colony outgrowth. An in-house trial showed that Littman
oxgall agar gave colony numbers equivalent to those obtained with MEA in hospital renovation
air samples incubated for 14 days (R.C. Summerbell, unpublished data).
The fact that all existing fungal sampling media have recognized shortcomings is a further
blow against the former aerobiological ideal of using a perfected, standardized sampling device
with a perfected, standardized growth medium to evaluate potential fungal aerosol problems with
reference to standard guidelines for acceptable numbers of CFU. This ideal, which was always
predicated on the reduction of all members of the three major terrestrial fungal phyla to a single,
alchemical mass substance, clearly must yield to the reality of biological diversity. As more
becomes known about the actual hazardous substances associated with airborne fungal materials,
methods indicating the occurrence or likely occurrence of these substances will be developed. In
the meantime, the investigator engaged in detecting potentially significant amplifiers must simply
ensure that an adequate diversity of techniques is used to cover the diversity of possible
amplifiers.
D.2
Direct Detection of Amplifiers
Procedures for the direct detection of mould amplifiers may be used either after an air
sample has predicted the presence of amplifiers or as a preliminary survey. Common places where
significant amplifiers can be visually identified are in water-damaged walls on or under wallpaper
or wallboard paper (whether painted over or not), on the backings of water-damaged carpets, on
heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) coils, pans, vanes, and so on, on damp papers
(e.g., after flood, including floods created by fire-fighting operations), within walk-in refrigerators
and incubators, and in any moist organic materials, including any moist object composed of
cellulose. Amplifiers may also be visible on windowsills, as well as shower stalls and washroom
fixtures.7 These windowsill and washroom amplifiers, if small and not involving cellulosic material
(i.e., moulds growing only on paint, ceramic, grouting, or plastic), are seldom problematic. More
extended amplifiers in these situations may be problematic, and even hypersensitivity pneumonitis,
which normally requires long-term heavy exposure to develop, has on rare occasion been linked
to heavy growth of fungi in shower or other washroom amplifiers.
74
Additional amplifiers may be detected by microscopic sampling. Common practices are the
transparent tape sampling of duct interiors, slide examination of humidifier basin materials, and
examination of small fibre samples cut or pulled away from filters or carpet backings in which
mould growth is suspected. Further direct detection of amplifiers may be performed by culturing
— for example, plating out of humidifier fluids and plating out of scrapings or swabs from
recognized or suspected mould growth on walls or other surfaces.
D.3
References
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Kozak, P.P., Gallup, J., Commins, L.H., and Gillman, S.A. Currently available methods
for home mold surveys. II. Examples of problem homes surveyed. Ann. Allergy, 45: 167
(1980).
2.
Sayer, W., Shean, D.B., and Ghosseiri, J. Estimation of airborne fungal flora by the
Andersen sampler versus the gravity settling culture plate. J. Allergy, 44: 214 (1969).
3.
Buttner, M.P. and Stetzenbach, L.D. Monitoring airborne fungal spores in an experimental
indoor environment to evaluate sampling methods and the effects of human activity on air
sampling. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 59: 219 (1993) [erratum notice: Appl. Environ.
Microbiol., 59: 1694 (1993)].
4.
Verhoeff, A.P., van Wijnen, J.H., Brunekreef, B., Fischer, P., van Reenen-Hoekstra, E.S.,
and Samson, R.A. Presence of viable mold propagules in indoor air in relation to house
damp and outdoor air. Allergy, 47: 83 (1992).
5.
Good, I.J. The population frequencies of species and the estimation of population
parameters. Biometrika, 40: 237 (1953).
6.
Gochenaur, S.E. Fungi of a Long Island oak–birch forest. II. Population dynamics and
hydrolase patterns of the soil penicillia. Mycologia, 76: 218 (1984).
7.
Hyvärinen, A., Reponen, T., Husman, T., Ruuskanen, J., and Nevalainen, A. Composition
of fungal flora in mold problem houses determined with four different methods. In: Indoor
air '93, Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and
Climate. Vol. 4. Particles, microbes, radon. P. Kalliokoski, M. Jantunen, and O. Seppänen
(eds.). Helsinki. p. 273 (1993).
8.
Solomon, W.R. Assessing fungus prevalence in domestic interiors. J. Allergy Clin.
Immunol., 56: 235 (1975).
9.
Verhoeff, A.P., van Wijnen, J.H., Boleij, J.S.M., Brunekreef, B., van Reenen-Hoekstra,
E.S., and Samson, R.A. Enumeration and identification of airborne viable mold propagules
in houses: a field comparison of selected techniques. Allergy, 45: 275 (1990).
75
10.
Kapyla, M. Frame fungi on insulated windows. Allergy, 40: 558 (1985).
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Muilenberg, M.L. Aeroallergen assessment by microscopy and culture. Immunol. Allergy
Clin. N. Am., 9: 245 (1989).
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Blomquist, G., Palmgren, V., and Ström, G. Improved techniques for sampling airborne
fungal particles in highly contaminated environments. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health, 10:
253 (1984).
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Miller, J.D. Fungi and the building engineer. In: IAQ '92, Environments for people. M.
Geshwiler (ed.). ASHRAE, Atlanta, GA (1993).
14.
Smid, T., Schokkin, E., Boleij, J.S., and Heederik, D. Enumeration of viable fungi in
occupational environments: a comparison of samplers and media. Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J.,
50: 235 (1989).
15.
Thorne, P.S., Kiekenhaefer, M.S., Whitten, P., and Donham, K.J. Comparison of
bioaerosol sampling methods in barns housing swine. Appl. Environ. Microbiol., 58: 2543
(1992).
16.
Pasanen, A.L., Kalliokoski, O., Pasanen, P., Salmi, T., and Tossavainen, A. Fungi carried
from farmers' work into farm homes. Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J., 50: 631 (1989).
17.
Miller, J.D. Fungi as contaminants in indoor air. Atmos. Environ., 26A: 2163 (1992).
18.
Burge, H.A., Chatigny, M., Feeley, J., Kreiss, K., Morey, P., Otten, J., and Petersen, K.
Guidelines for assessment and sampling of saprophytic bioaerosols in the indoor
environment. Appl. Ind. Hyg., 9: 10 (1987).
19.
van Reenen-Hoekstra, E.S., Samson, R.A., Verhoeff, A.P., van Wijnen, J.H., and
Brunekreef, B. Detection and identification of moulds in Dutch houses and non-industrial
working environments. Grana, 30: 418 (1991).
20.
Morring, K.L., Sorenson, W.G., and Attfield, M.D. Sampling for airborne fungi: a
statistical comparison of media. Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J., 44: 662 (1983).
21.
Littman, M.L. Growth of pathogenic fungi on a new culture medium. Tech. Bull. Reg.
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