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Determining whether estimated spore\ud release rates for Aspergillus\ud fumigatus are compatible with their\ud measured growth rates in composting\ud systems

By L.A. Fletcher, E.I. Stentiford and A.A. Kemp


The composting process like other waste management activities has the potential to generate large concentrations of bioaerosols which can be widely dispersed into the surrounding environment. There has been considerable interest in the literature of the effect of bioaerosols and in particular Aspergillus fumigatus on the health of plant operators and those living in close proximity to composting plants (Olver, 1994; Fischer et al., 1999; Fischer et al., 2000; Bunger et al., 200). Although bioaerosols can be generated through a range of operational procedures it has also been suggested\ud that large numbers of Aspergillus fumigatus spores can be emitted from static compost piles through the action of\ud natural air movements across the surface of the biodegrading material. Through the use of a portable wind tunnel apparatus researchers have determined the rate of emission of Aspergillus fumigatus spores as a result of air movement across the surface of the material (Taha et al., 2004; 2005; 2006 & 2007). The aim of this work was to use controlled laboratory experiments using compost samples and Aspergillus fumigatus spores to determine the sporulation rate of Aspergillus fumigatus. Using this data it would then be possible to verify whether bioaerosol emission rates from static compost windrows calculated and quoted in the literature can in fact be maintained over longer time periods. A series of experiments were carried out using Aspergillus fumigatus spores on agar plates and small samples of green waste compost to determine the number of spores that could be generated by each existing spore over a seven day period. From the experiments the sporulation rate determined from the agar plates varied with averages of either 4.48x104 or 2.83 spores/day depending upon the date set used and from the compost experiments it was 1.33 spores/day. Using this data and making a number of assumptions for moisture content (50%), bulk density (650 kg/m3) and the wind penetration depth (10-25mm) the potential release rates were calculated. The data from the agar experiments yielded a potential release rate at 10mm up to 5 orders of magnitude in excess of that quoted by Taha et al. (2004 & 2005. Using the trimmed data set the agar release figures are between 6.17 x 103 and 1.23 x 104 cfu/m2/s depending upon the wind penetration depth used and are comparable to those quoted in the literature. The release rate calculated using the compost experiments was slightly lower than the agar 2 data and consequently the release rates even at a wind penetration depth of 25mm are just outside the range quoted by Taha et al. (2004 & 2005).\ud Although the data presented in this paper were determined from controlled laboratory experiments they show that it is\ud possible for Aspergillus fumigatus to generate spores at a sufficient rate to allow the release of significant numbers of spores. The calculated sporulation rates would allow spores to be released at the rates quoted in the literature and suggest that the fugitive release rates quoted in the literature would be able to be maintained over long periods of time. However it is recognised that the data is affected greatly by the assumptions one makes, in particular the existing concentration of Aspergillus fumigatus. Despite the limitations the original intention of the work was to attempt to establish the long term applicability of the fugitive release rates for Aspergillus fumigatus from green waste compost\ud quoted in the literature and it has achieved this objective

Publisher: Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR)
Year: 2008
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