An inter-comparison field campaign to assess the merits of current real-time bioaerosol instrumentation

The objectives of the UCC team to the BIODETECT2014 study are:

  • To participate in a summer inter-comparison campaign for testing Light/Laser Induced Fluorescence (LIF) methods for the detection and quantification of bioaerosols. Two sites in the Paris area will be used. (CEA Saclay and LHVP Central Paris). The UCC team will be located at LHVP.
  • During this period of the year, high concentrations of pollen and fungal spores are emitted into the air; these emissions have been shown to frequently coincide with pollution events. Accordingly, a key objective of the UCC campaign is to understand how LIF techniques operate in an urban/suburban environment, specifically with respect to their ability to discriminate bioaerosols from high concentrations of non-biological particles.

 The other research groups involved are from France, Finland, UK and USA.

Scientific Background

The need to measure the occurrence and development of aerosols in our atmosphere has increased dramatically in recent years. The necessity is based both on the undesirable effects that they have on our health and the role they play in climate change. The atmospheric aerosol does not, of course, consist of abiotic chemical components alone. Field measurements have shown that Primary Biological Atmospheric Particles (PBAPs) are also present and comprise of materials such as bacteria, bacterial endotoxins, viruses, protozoa, fungal spores, algae, plant fragments, pollen, oocysts and animal fragments (skin in particular). The diameters of these materials range between nanometres and hundreds of microns.

There is a need for rapid, robust and reliable measurements of bioaerosols to directly inform the public about potential bioaerosol overloads (say as precursors to asthma, COPD and hay fever for those at-risk). Fortunately in the last 10 years military-led research efforts have led to the development of real-time bioaerosol detectors and PBAP quantification technique, which are now commercially available. These exploit the fundamental principle that specific organic molecules of biological origin such as proteins, amino acids, cell wall compounds and pigments exhibit intrinsic fluorescence.

There are a number of instruments on the market that have been deployed in a variety of countries but as of yet there have been no systematic comparison campaigns performed to monitor the effectiveness of each method for measuring spores, bacteria and pollen in the air. Hence an inter-comparison study directed toward rapid/traditional bioaerosol detection is being organised in Saclay/Paris, France in July 2014 by Dr Roland Sarde-Esteve, CEA l’orme des merisiers.

Project Team

Co-ordinator – Prof John Sodeau

Co-Principal Investigator – Dr David O’Connor

Funding Details

Funded by – (i) the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Science, Technology, Research & Innovation for the Environment (STRIVE) Programme; (ii) CEA

Research theme - Environment and Human Health: a theme set up to improve knowledge to assist in the development and implementation of effective policy actions to reduce environmental impacts on human health.

Funding period – 2014

Funding cost - €9500

Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry

Lab B1, Kane Building, University College Cork, College Rd, Cork, Ireland