I’m currently at Indoor Air 2011 sitting in on the Sloan Foundation-sponsored sessions on microbiology of the built environment. There are a number of great talks taking place and we hope to post some more information in the form of slides later. We’ll probably also post a more formal write-up about some of the discussions taking place.
A couple of interesting things that have come up that I thought I’d mention from this morning:
Bill Nazaroff from Berkeley made the good point that we don’t even really have enough information to know what questions we should be asking about the built environment. (A good argument for more environmental surveys).
Several speakers discussed the difficulties associated with accurately sampling indoor air without contamination from the sampling apparatus. A couple of speakers talked about using dust as a substrate to avoid some of these difficulties.
Lew Harriman from Mason Grant Consulting gave an interesting talk on spatial and temporal variation in moisture in buildings. Since the presence of water is so important for microbial ecology, we use relative humidity as an important measure of risk in buildings. However, Lew made the point that even low relative humidity can result in high moisture levels on surfaces (where microbes live) depending on the dew point (which we should therefore pay more attention to).
Alina Handerean from CU Boulder brought up an interesting point that wasn’t really discussed further. This was that standards for building habitability after disaster remediation are based solely on culture-based methods and so might miss a lot of lingering and potentially problematic microbes.