Indoor microbial exposure has been related to adverse pulmonary health effects. Exposure assessment is not standardized, and various factors may affect the measured exposure. The aim of this study was to investigate the seasonal variation of selected microbial exposures and their associations with temperature, relative humidity, and air exchange rates in Danish homes. Airborne inhalable dust was sampled in five Danish homes throughout the four seasons of 1 year (indoors, n = 127; outdoors, n = 37). Measurements included culturable fungi and bacteria, endotoxin, N-acetyl-beta-d-glucosaminidase, total inflammatory potential, particles (0.75 to 15 μm), temperature, relative humidity, and air exchange rates. Significant seasonal variation was found for all indoor microbial exposures, excluding endotoxin. Indoor fungi peaked in summer (median, 235 CFU/m3) and were lowest in winter (median, 26 CFU/m3). Indoor bacteria peaked in spring (median, 2,165 CFU/m3) and were lowest in summer (median, 240 CFU/m3). Concentrations of fungi were predominately higher outdoors than indoors, whereas bacteria, endotoxin, and inhalable dust concentrations were highest indoors. Bacteria and endotoxin correlated with the mass of inhalable dust and number of particles. Temperature and air exchange rates were positively associated with fungi and N-acetyl-beta-d-glucosaminidase and negatively with bacteria and the total inflammatory potential. Although temperature, relative humidity, and air exchange rates were significantly associated with several indoor microbial exposures, they could not fully explain the observed seasonal variations when tested in a mixed statistical model. In conclusion, the season significantly affects indoor microbial exposures, which are influenced by temperature, relative humidity, and air exchange rates.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2012, Vol 78, Issue 23, p. 8289-8297