American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo, May 21-26, 2005, Anaheim, California. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2005 May; :7
Despite the media attention that cabin air quality receives, little research has been conducted to determine the magnitude of fungal concentrations on aircraft. The primary objective of this study was to compare aircraft fungal concentrations at various in-flight times to concentrations collected inside and outside airport terminals. Sixteen flights with durations between 4.5 and 6.5 hours were evaluated on twin aisle wide-body aircraft. Using N-6 impactors and DG18 agar media, triplicate samples were collected in the front and rear of coach class during six sampling intervals throughout each flight: boarding, post-takeoff, mid-flight 1, mid-flight 2, mid-flight 3, and deplaning. Comparison samples were collected inside and outside airport terminals at the origin and destination cities. The MIXED procedure in SAS was used to model the mean and the variance-covariance matrix of the natural log transformed fungal concentrations. Fixed effects considered included the sampling interval and the location of samples (front of coach section, rear of coach section) collected inside the aircraft. Descriptive statistics indicate that fungal concentrations on the aircraft were highest during deplaning (geometric mean (GM): 77.5 colony forming units per cubic meter (cfu/m3), geometric standard deviation (GSD): 2.8) followed by the boarding interval (GM: 65.7 cfu/m3, GSD: 3.8). The front and rear locations within the coach section of the aircraft were not significantly different (p-value > 0.2). Fungal concentrations inside the aircraft during mid-flight (GM: 9.7 cfu/m3, GSD: 2.1) were lower than concentrations observed inside the airport terminals (GM: 44.2 cfu/m3, GSD: 3.3) and appreciably lower than concentrations observed outside the airport terminals (GM: 449.4 cfu/m3, GSD: 2.4). Study results consistently demonstrate that fungal concentrations are higher outside the airport terminals than those observed in-flight on wide-body aircraft. Additional analysis regarding the specific genus and species of fungi observed should be completed to elucidate differences between the sampling environments.