Exposure to airborne particles of microbiological origin is increasingly being recognized as responsible for infectious, hypersensitivity, and inflammatory lung diseases. Such particles are referred to as biological aerosols, or "bioaerosols," and include but are not limited to bacteria, fungi, their spores and fragments thereof (associated toxins), and viruses. Modem aircraft use pressurized cabins to transport millions of passengers each year. With the occupant levels experienced by the air transport industry, concerns regarding human exposure to bioaerosols have been raised among the traveling public, flight crews, scientific communities, and regulatory agencies. Based on extensive monitoring, professional societies have published guidelines suggesting acceptable ranges for bioaerosol exposures in indoor environments, yet it is not established if such exposure thresholds should apply to commercial aircraft, nor is it established what bioaerosol exposures are experienced by the average passenger during routine air travel. For the purpose of better characterizing the air quality in commercial aircraft cabins, germane literature from respected sources within the fields of industrial hygiene, environmental microbiology, and medical microbiology have been surveyed and summarized. This survey has focused on a comprehensive characterization of bioaerosols in aircraft using the best available technology, and is divided into the following sections: bioaerosol collection in currently marketed and research-grade air samplers; assays and analytical methodologies used to characterize airborne bacteria, fungi, spores, viruses, and microbiologically associated toxins following collection; summary of guidelines germane to the microbiological air quality in aircraft cabins; summary of aircraft air quality case studies that have a significant bioaerosol component; and recommendations for future aircraft bioaerosol studies.
University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, Box 428, Boulder, CO 80309
University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, Boulder, Colorado