Exposure to airborne microorganisms in furniture factories.

Ann Agric Environ Med 2002;9(1):85–90
Microbiological air sampling was performed in 2 furniture factories located in eastern Poland. In one factory furniture were made from fibreboards and chipboards while in the other from beech wood. It was found that the concentration of total microorganisms (bacteria + fungi) in the air of the facility using beech wood for furniture production (mean 10.7 x (3) cfu/m(3), range 3.3 27.5 x (3) cfu/m(3)) was significantly higher (p < 0.01) compared to microbial concentration in the facility using fibre- and chipboards (mean 3.6 x (3) cfu/m(3), range 1.9-6.2 x (3) cfu/m(3)). On average, the commonest microorganisms in the air of the furniture factories were corynebacteria (Corynebacterium spp., Arthrobacter spp., Brevibacterium spp.) which formed 18.1-50.0% of the total airborne microflora, and fungi (mostly Aspergillus spp., Penicillium spp., Absidia spp. and yeasts) which formed 6.2-54.4% of the total count. The values of the respirable fraction of airborne microflora in the furniture factories varied within fairly wide limits and were between 15.0-62.4%. Altogether, 28 species or genera of bacteria and 12 species or genera of fungi were identified in the air of examined factories, of which respectively 8 and 7 species or genera were reported as having allergenic and/or immunotoxic properties. In conclusion, the workers of furniture factories are exposed to relatively low concentrations of airborne microorganisms which do not exceed the suggested occupational exposure limits. Nevertheless, the presence of allergenic and/or immunotoxic microbial species in the air of factories poses a potential risk of respiratory disease, in particular in sensitive workers.