Bioaerosol health effects and exposure assessment: progress and prospects.

Douwes, J; Thorne, P; Pearce, N; Heederik, D; (2003) Bioaerosol health effects and exposure assessment: progress and prospects. The Annals of occupational hygiene, 47 (3). pp. 187-200. ISSN 0003-4878 DOI:

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Exposures to bioaerosols in the occupational environment are associated with a wide range of health effects with major public health impact, including infectious diseases, acute toxic effects, allergies and cancer. Respiratory symptoms and lung function impairment are the most widely studied and probably among the most important bioaerosol-associated health effects. In addition to these adverse health effects some protective effects of microbial exposure on atopy and atopic conditions has also been suggested. New industrial activities have emerged in recent years in which exposures to bioaerosols can be abundant, e.g. the waste recycling and composting industry, biotechnology industries producing highly purified enzymes and the detergent and food industries that make use of these enzymes. Dose-response relationships have not been established for most biological agents and knowledge about threshold values is sparse. Exposure limits are available for some contaminants, e.g. wood dust, subtilisins (bacterial enzymes) and flour dust. Exposure limits for bacterial endotoxin have been proposed. Risk assessment is seriously hampered by the lack of valid quantitative exposure assessment methods. Traditional culture methods to quantify microbial exposures have proven to be of limited use. Non-culture methods and assessment methods for microbial constituents [e.g. allergens, endotoxin, beta(1-->3)-glucans, fungal extracellular polysaccharides] appear more successful; however, experience with these methods is generally limited. Therefore, more research is needed to establish better exposure assessment tools and validate newly developed methods. Other important areas that require further research include: potential protective effects of microbial exposures on atopy and atopic diseases, inter-individual susceptibility for biological exposures, interactions of bioaerosols with non-biological agents and other potential health effects such as skin and neurological conditions and birth effects.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Medical Statistics
Research Centre: Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
PubMed ID: 12639832
Web of Science ID: 182119200003


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