Exposures to molds in school classrooms of children with asthma
Wanda Phipatanakul, Division of Immunology, Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Fegan 6, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Students spend a large portion of their day in classrooms which may be a source of mold exposure. We examined the diversity and concentrations of molds in inner-city schools and described differences between classrooms within the same school.
Classroom airborne mold spores, collected over a 2 day period, were measured twice during the school year by direct microscopy.
There were 180 classroom air samples collected from 12 schools. Mold was present in 100% of classrooms. Classrooms within the same school had differing mold levels and mold diversity scores. The total mold per classroom was 176.6 ± 4.2 spores/m3 (geometric mean ± standard deviation) and ranged from 11.2 to 16,288.5 spores/m3. Mold diversity scores for classroom samples ranged from 1 to 19 (7.7 ± 3.5). The classroom accounted for the majority of variance (62%) in the total mold count, and for the majority of variance (56%) in the mold diversity score versus the school. The species with the highest concentrations and found most commonly included Cladosporium (29.3 ± 4.2 spores/m3), Penicillium/Aspergillus (15.0 ± 5.4 spores/m3), smut spores (12.6 ± 4.0 spores/m3), and basidiospores (6.6 ± 7.1 spores/m3).
Our study found that the school is a source of mold exposure, but particularly the classroom microenvironment varies in quantity of spores and species among classrooms within the same school. We also verified that visible mold may be a predictor for higher mold spore counts. Further studies are needed to determine the clinical significance of mold exposure relative to asthma morbidity in sensitized and non-sensitized asthmatic children.