Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Characterizing airborne fungal and bacterial concentrations and emission rates in six occupied children's classrooms.

Published Web Location


Baseline information on size-resolved bacterial, fungal, and particulate matter (PM) indoor air concentrations and emission rates is presented for six school classrooms sampled in four countries. Human occupancy resulted in significantly elevated airborne bacterial (81 times on average), fungal (15 times), and PM mass (nine times) concentrations as compared to vacant conditions. Occupied indoor/outdoor (I/O) ratios consistently exceeded vacant I/O ratios. Regarding size distributions, average room-occupied bacterial, fungal, and PM geometric mean particle sizes were similar to one another while geometric means estimated for bacteria, fungi, and PM mass during vacant sampling were consistently lower than when occupied. Occupancy also resulted in elevated indoor bacterial-to-PM mass-based and number-based ratios above corresponding outdoor levels. Mean emission rates due to human occupancy were 14 million cells/person/h for bacteria, 14 million spore equivalents/person/h for fungi, and 22 mg/person/h for PM mass. Across all locations, indoor emissions contributed 83 ± 27% (bacteria), 66 ± 19% (fungi), and 83 ± 24% (PM mass) of the average indoor air concentrations during occupied times.

Practical implications

An extensive data set of bacterial and fungal size-distributed indoor air concentrations and emission rates is presented. Analysis of these data contributes to an understanding of how indoor bacterial and fungal aerosols are influenced by human occupancy. This work extends beyond prior culture and DNA-based microbiome studies in buildings to include quantitative relationships between size-resolved bacterial and fungal concentrations in indoor air and building parameters such as occupancy, ventilation, and outdoor conditions. The work indicates that occupancy-associated emissions (e.g., via resuspension and shedding) contribute more to both bacterial and fungal indoor air concentrations than do outdoor sources for the occupied classrooms investigated in this study.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View