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Exposures to molds in school classrooms of children with asthma

Authors

  • Sachin N. Baxi,

    1. Division of Allergy and Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Michael L. Muilenberg,

    1. Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
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  • Christine A. Rogers,

    1. Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
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  • William J. Sheehan,

    1. Division of Allergy and Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Jonathan Gaffin,

    1. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Division of Pediatric Pulmonology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Perdita Permaul,

    1. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Lianne S. Kopel,

    1. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Division of Pediatric Pulmonology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Peggy S. Lai,

    1. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Jeffrey P. Lane,

    1. Facilities Management, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Ann Bailey,

    1. Division of Respiratory Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Carter R. Petty,

    1. Clinical Research Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Chunxia Fu,

    1. Division of Respiratory Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Diane R. Gold,

    1. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Division of Respiratory Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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  • Wanda Phipatanakul

    Corresponding author
    1. Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Division of Respiratory Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
    • Division of Allergy and Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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Correspondence

Wanda Phipatanakul, Division of Immunology, Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Fegan 6, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Tel.: 617-355-6117

Fax: 617-730-0310

E-mail: wanda.phipatanakul@childrens.harvard.edu

Abstract

Background

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.

Methods

Classroom airborne mold spores, collected over a 2 day period, were measured twice during the school year by direct microscopy.

Results

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).

Conclusions

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.

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