Key Takeaways

- Bioaerosols are a complex mixture comprised of fungi, bacteria and mites as well as their metabolites and by-products.

- Airborne concentrations vary widely, both temporally and spatially.

- Assessing and controlling bioaerosols is more complex and difficult than for other chemical and physical hazards faced by safety and health professionals.

- Bioaerosol sampling cannot always be used to project possible health effects and should only be conducted by an experienced professional after a thorough informed assessment and when environmental sampling is necessary to answer a particular unanswered question.


Bioaerosols can cause a range of potential adverse health issues, including respiratory problems (e.g., asthma exacerbation), allergic reactions and infectious diseases. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made the world more aware of the potential health concerns from exposures to bioaerosols, the term “bioaerosols” represents a much larger category of living and nonliving biological material (ACGIH, 2022). Bioaerosols can consist of fungi, bacteria, spores, pollen, mites, viruses and cell membrane components, and may or may not be viable (ACGIH, 2022). Bioaerosols include airborne compounds, propagules (e.g., seeds, spores, pollen), and fragments arising and derived from biological organisms. They can include fragmented bodies and feces from dust mites, cockroaches and other insects, as well as proteins in saliva, urine and dander from cats, dogs and other furred animals (Flannigan, 2001). Bioaerosols can also include volatile and nonvolatile metabolites and by-products of cells (ACGIH, 2022). Due to metabolic activity or decomposition of nutrients and substrates, many biological agents also potentially contain or release various cellular components (e.g., endotoxins, glucans, chitins), low molecular weight secondary metabolites (e.g., mycotoxins), microbial volatile organic compounds, antigens or allergens (ACGIH, 2022).

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