Bioaerosols (ACGIH uses the term biologically-derived airborne concentrations to describe bioaerosols, gases and vapors that living organisms produce) are natural components of indoor and outdoor environments but may be considered contaminants when found indoors or when emitted from certain “industrial” processes. There are TLVs for some substances of biological origin: cellulose, wood, cotton and grain dusts, starch, sucrose) but very few numerical standards for bioaerosols. However, there are reliable methods to identify environments in need of “intervention”.*
Monitoring for bioaerosols in the occupational environment is one of the tools used to assess indoor air quality, infectious disease outbreaks, agricultural health and clean rooms. Bioaerosol monitoring is the measurement of viable (culturable and non-culturable) and nonviable microorganisms inside industrial plants, offices or residences and among outdoor environments.
Most bioaerosol investigations rely upon sampling upon a culture media; microbial and fungal identification is largely a “visual” experience. There are some “real-time” monitors but generate information on a limited range of substances. Though analysis of collected materials should be performed by accredited laboratories, the actual sampling can be accomplished by on-site personnel following a numerous defined published protocols.
* Bioaerosols: Assessment and Control, ACGIH, 1999