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The impact of flood and post-flood cleaning on airborne microbiological and particle contamination in residential houses

In January 2011, Brisbane, Australia, experienced a major river-flooding event. We aimed to investigate its effects on air quality and assess the role of prompt cleaning activities in reducing the airborne exposure risk. A comprehensive, multi-parameter indoor and outdoor measurement campaign was conducted in 41 residential houses, 2 and 6 months after the flood. The median indoor air concentrations of supermicrometer particle number (PN), PM10, fungi and bacteria 2 months after the flood were comparable to those previously measured in Brisbane. These were 2.88pcm-3, 15μgm-3, 804cfum-3 and 177cfum-3 for flood-affected houses (AFH), and 2.74pcm-3, 15μgm-3, 547cfum-3 and 167cfum-3 for non-affected houses (NFH), respectively. The I/O (indoor/outdoor) ratios of these pollutants were 1.08, 1.38, 0.74 and 1.76 for AFH and 1.03, 1.32, 0.83 and 2.17 for NFH, respectively. The average of total elements (together with transition metals) in indoor dust was 2296±1328μgm-2 for AFH and 1454±678μgm-2 for NFH, respectively. In general, the differences between AFH and NFH were not statistically significant, implying the absence of a measureable effect on air quality from the flood. We postulate that this was due to the very swift and effective cleaning of the flooded houses by 60,000 volunteers. Among the various cleaning methods, the use of both detergent and bleach was the most efficient at controlling indoor bacteria. All cleaning methods were equally effective for indoor fungi. This study provides quantitative evidence of the significant impact of immediate post-flood cleaning on mitigating the effects of flooding on indoor bioaerosol contamination and other pollutants.

Author: He C, Salonen H, Ling X, Crilley L, Jayasundara N, Cheung HC, Hargreaves M, Huygens F, Knibbs LD, Ayoko GA, Morawska L

Citation: Environ Int. 2014 Aug;69:9-17. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.04.001. Epub 2014 May 4

Published: 18/08/2014

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: International Journal of Environmental Health Research