There are few studies on associations between airborne microbial exposure, formaldehyde and plasticizers in dwellings and symptoms compatible with the sick building syndrome (SBS). Within the follow-up of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS II), indoor measurements were performed in homes in three north European cities. The aim was to examine if volatile organic compound of possible microbial origin (MVOC), and airborne levels of bacteria, moulds, formaldehyde and two plasticizers in dwellings were associated with the prevalence of SBS, and to study associations between MVOC and reports on dampness and mould.
The study included homes from three centres from ECRHS II. In total, 159 adults (57% females) participated (19% from Reykjavik, 40% from Uppsala and 41% from Tartu). A random sample and additional homes with a history of dampness were included. Exposure measurements were performed in the 159 homes. MVOC was analysed by GCMS with selective ion monitoring (SIM). Symptoms were reported in a standardized questionnaire. Associations were analysed by multiple logistic regression.
Totally 30.8% reported any SBS (20% mucosal,10% general and 8% dermal symptoms) and 41% of the homes had a history of dampness and moulds There were positive associations between any SBS and levels of 2-pentanol (p=0.002), 2-hexanon (P=0.0002), 2-pentylfuran (P=0.009), 1-octen-3ol (P=0.002), formaldehyde (P=0.05), and 2,2,4-trimethyl-1,3-pentanediol monoisobutyrate (Texanol) (P=0.05). 1-octen-3ol was associated with mucosal symptoms. In dwelling with dampness and moulds, the levels of total bacteria (P=0.02), total mould (p=0.04), viable mould (p=0, 02), 2-methylfuran (p=0.008) and etyl-iso-butyrate (p=0.02) were higher.
In conclusion, some MVOC such as 1-octen-3-ol, formaldehyde and the plasticizer Texanol may be a risk factor for sick building syndrome. Moreover concentration of airborne moulds, bacteria and some other MVOC were slightly higher in homes with reported dampness and mould.
Microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC), indoor environment, sick building syndrome (SBS), dwelling, dampness, mould.