Characterization of airborne molds, endotoxins, and glucans in homes in New Orleans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
In August and September 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused breeches in the New Orleans, LA, levee system, resulting in catastrophic flooding. The city remained flooded for several weeks, leading to extraordinary mold growth in homes. To characterize the potential risks of mold exposures, we measured airborne molds and markers of molds and bacteria in New Orleans area homes. In October 2005, we collected air samples from 5 mildly water-damaged houses, 15 moderately to heavily water-damaged houses, and 11 outdoor locations. The air filters were analyzed for culturable fungi, spores, (13,16)-ß-D-glucans, and endotoxins. Culturable fungi were significantly higher in the moderately/heavily water-damaged houses (geometric mean = 67,000 CFU/m3) than in the mildly water-damaged houses (geometric mean = 3,700 CFU/m3) (P = 0.02). The predominant molds found were Aspergillus niger, Penicillium spp., Trichoderma, and Paecilomyces. The indoor and outdoor geometric means for endotoxins were 22.3 endotoxin units (EU)/m3 and 10.5 EU/m3, respectively, and for (13,16)-ß-D-glucans were 1.7 µg/m3 and 0.9 µg/m3, respectively. In the moderately/heavily water-damaged houses, the geometric means were 31.3 EU/m3 for endotoxins and 1.8 µg/m3 for (13,16)-ß-D-glucans. Molds, endotoxins, and fungal glucans were detected in the environment after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans at concentrations that have been associated with health effects. The species and concentrations were different from those previously reported for non-water-damaged buildings in the southeastern United States.
Mycotic Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd. NE, MS-C09, Atlanta, GA 30333