01/01/2000 Environmental Science
DOI: 10.1159/000057517 SemanticScholar ID: 202655361

The Threat Posed by Airborne Micro-Organisms

Publication Summary

Accessible online at: www.karger.com/journals/ibe Over the past 20 years there has been increasing interest in the quality of air in buildings. Initially this interest was focused mainly on the perceived problem of ‘sick building syndrome’. However, as time has passed, many building designers and scientists have come to realise that indoor air quality has a profound effect on both the performance and health of building occupants, since people spend most of their lives indoors. Most of the work undertaken in this field has concentrated on non-viable chemical air pollutants such as radon, carbon monoxide, asbestos fibres and volatile organic compounds while the work on viable pollutants has tended to focus on the allergenic properties of fungi and dust mite excreta. In comparison, relatively little work has been undertaken on the microbiological aspects of indoor air quality. The relative lack of research into the airborne transmission of bacteria, fungi and viruses is, in part, due to the fact that aerobiology is a little understood science and also because the threat posed by airborne microbes has been greatly underestimated. In addition, some infectious diseases that have an airborne route of transmission have become difficult to treat because of the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Furthermore, some of these infections are undergoing a resurgence of worrying proportions. Tuberculosis (TB), naively thought by many to be a disease of the past, is still endemic in many parts of the world and is on the increase in the UK with 6,750 new cases being reported in 1999 [1]. Nosocomial infection (i.e. infection originating in hospital) has increased to such an extent that the National Audit Office has recently estimated the cost of dealing with the problem to be in excess of £1 billion per annum in the UK alone [2]. Finally, there is the ever-present global threat of biological weapons, which rely on the airborne dispersion of pathogens. There is thus a clear need to raise general awareness of the threat posed by airborne microbes and to undertake more research into the physical and microbiological behaviour of bio-aerosols.

CAER Authors

Share this

Next publication

2009 Psychology

The Dynamics of Category Conjunctions

R. Hutter, R. Crisp, G. Humphreys, Gillian. M. Waters + 1 more