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Keywords:

  • fungal spores;
  • inhalation exposure;
  • air microbiology;
  • allergic sensitization;
  • sampling;
  • child;
  • rhinitis

Indoor air quality has become increasingly important as we live in a society where the majority of our time is spent indoors. Specific attention has been drawn to airborne fungal spores as a factor affecting indoor air quality. This study targeted shortcomings of other studies by utilizing long-term air sampling and total fungal spore enumeration to determine associations between health outcomes and fungal spore concentrations. Infants (n = 144) were clinically evaluated and had skin prick tests (SPT) for 17 allergens. Airborne fungal spores were collected using a Button Personal Inhalable Sampler (SKC Inc.) for 48 h at a flow rate of 4 l/min. Sampling was conducted in the spring (March–May) or fall (August–October) in 2003–2004. Fungal spores were analyzed using microscopy-based total counting and identified to the genus/group level. Total spore and individual genus concentrations were analyzed for associations with rhinitis and positive SPT results. Overall, concentrations varied widely, between <2 and 2294 spores/m3. While no relationship was observed between SPT(+) and total fungal counts, several significant associations were found when analysis was conducted on the various fungal genera and health outcomes. Positive associations were obtained between: Basidiospores and rhinitis (p < 0.01), Penicillium/Aspergillus and SPT(+) to any allergen (p < 0.01), and Alternaria and SPT(+) to any allergen (p < 0.01). Inverse associations were found between: Cladosporium and SPT(+) to any allergen (p < 0.05), and Cladosporium and SPT(+) to aeroallergens (p < 0.05). This study indicates that health outcome may vary by fungal genera; some fungal types may have sensitizing effects while others may have a beneficial role.