Personal exposure to allergenic pollen and mould spores in inland New South Wales, Australia


T.Mitakakis Institute f Respiratory Medicine, PO Box M77, Camperdown, NSW, Australia 2006.



In inland NSW, Australia, allergic sensitization to the fungi Alternaria and Cladosporium and to pollen is common and an important risk factor for asthma.


We report the results of a series of experiments designed to assess the nature of personal exposure to these airborne allergenic particles. We have tested the effect of exposure conditions and level of activity on measurements of the personal exposure.


Personal Air Samplers (PAS) and Nasal Air Samplers (NAS) were employed. NAS are fitted just inside the nose and collect inhaled particles by impaction, while the PAS use a pump-operated filter with constant air flow (2 L/min). Thirty-three subjects (adults and children) used both NAS and PAS simultaneously for four one hour periods during which they performed activities or rested, both inside and outside their homes. Samples were analysed by light microscopy. Alternaria spores, Cladosporium spores, grass pollen and nongrass pollen were counted.


Both samplers detected substantial variation in exposure between subjects. Between members of the same household, the intrahouse correlation coefficient ranged from < 0 − 0.38. Levels of pollen grains and fungal spores inhaled were higher during periods of activity than during rest, and higher while subjects were outdoors than indoors. During the active outdoor period, the number of Alternaria spores inhaled ranged from 4 to 794 (median 11) spores/hr, Cladosporium from 0 to 396 (median 4) spores/hr, grass pollen from 0 to 81 (median 1) grains/hr and nongrass pollen from 0 to 72 (median 5) grains/hr.


This is the first study to quantify individual inhaled levels of allergenic fungal spores and pollen under normal domestic circumstances. Exposure can be substantial and highly variable between individuals. The amount of particles inhaled relates both to location of the individual and activity being performed, independent of age group.