Comparison of sampling methods for the assessment of indoor microbial exposure


M. Frankel
The National Research Centre for the Working Environment
Lersø Parkallé 105
DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45-39165298
Fax: 0045 39165201


Abstract  Indoor microbial exposure has been related to allergy and respiratory disorders. However, the lack of standardized sampling methodology is problematic when investigating dose–response relationships between exposure and health effects. In this study, different sampling methods were compared regarding their assessment of microbial exposures, including culturable fungi and bacteria, endotoxin, as well as the total inflammatory potential (TIP) of dust samples from Danish homes. The Gesamtstaubprobenahme (GSP) filter sampler and BioSampler were used for sampling of airborne dust, whereas the dust fall collector (DFC), the electrostatic dust fall collector (EDC), and vacuum cleaner were used for sampling of settled dust. The GSP assessed significantly higher microbial levels than the BioSampler, yet measurements from both samplers correlated significantly. Considerably higher levels of fungi, endotoxin, and TIP were found in the EDC compared with the DFC, and regarding fungi, the EDC correlated more strongly and significantly with vacuumed dust than the DFC. Fungi in EDC and vacuum dust correlated most strongly with airborne dust, and in particular, the measurements from the EDC associated well with those from GSP. Settled dust from the EDC was most representative of airborne dust and may thus be considered as a surrogate for the assessment of indoor airborne microbial exposure.

Practical Implications

Significant discrepancies between sampling methods regarding indoor microbial exposures have been revealed. This study thus facilitates comparison between methods and may therefore be used as a frame of reference when studying the literature or when conducting further studies on indoor microbial exposure. Results also imply that the relatively simple EDC method for the collection of settled dust may be used as an alternative to otherwise tedious and time-consuming airborne dust sampling.