Bioaerosol Monitoring Unit

The Bioaerosol Monitoring Unit focuses on certain aerosolised hazardous biological agents common in the workplace.

 

Bioaerosol services

  • Workplace assessments in conjunction with the Occupational Hygiene Section.
  • Collection of air samples.
  • Enumeration and identification of bacteria and fungi from air samples (Scope of Tests).
  • Recommendations for corrective action where appropriate.

 

Am I at risk to bioaerosols in the workplace?

  • Should I be concerned about mould exposure in my work environment?

Exposure to indoor moulds is of particular interest in the public health arena, with the growing recognition that certain moulds can be pathogenic, allergenic and toxigenic. Most mould spores can be introduced into the inside environment via natural or mechanical ventilation, human, insect and water intrusion into buildings. Symptoms that are commonly associated with mould exposure include eye irritation, rhinitis, throat irritation, coughing, sneezing, congestion, and aggravation of asthma. Humans are exposed to moulds via ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact. If you show these symptoms and suspect your work, discuss this with your supervisor or health and safety officer. Also if there is visible mould growth or strong mould odour, report to the supervisor. Regardless of the types of mould present, the employer should ensure that mould contamination is removed. There are currently no governmental recommendations for airborne concentrations of mould spores and other bioaerosols with which to compare any sampling results.
 

However, sampling for mould may be considered in the following situations:

  • When there is common complaints of concern from workers.
  • When medical diagnosis is consistently associated with mould exposure.
  • After decontamination, to ensure if the cleanup process was done properly.


For assistance with mould sampling, consult an experienced occupational hygienist and relevant laboratories for testing.
 

  • I react when using powdered latex gloves at work?

Powdered latex gloves have been identified as the major source of occupational exposure to allergens. Studies have shown that powdered latex gloves contain more proteins that non-powdered latex gloves and therefore pose a hazard to workers. The proteins in gloves attach to the cornstarch powder used to coat the gloves and get released into the air when the gloves are worn and removed. Subsequent inhalation of these particles in sensitised workers could results in latex allergy and asthmatic symptoms. The dust can also be deposited on surfaces (e.g. furniture, clothing) and may be resuspended by human activity and air movement. For allergic persons’, avoiding direct contact with latex gloves is not sufficient to reduce sensitisation if a co-worker is still using powdered latex gloves in the same area. The recommendations for effective preventive measures of exposure to airborne latex in the workplace include ventilation systems, use of personal protective equipment, surveillance and monitoring, educational programmes and changes in glove type.
 

  • Which occupation is most at risk of airborne infectious diseases?

Healthcare workers are the first line of defense against the diseases and to respond to outbreaks, and hence are at potential risk of occupational illnesses from harmful microorganisms. Healthcare facilities therefore need to be aware of other routes of transmission of hazardous biological agents and be prepared to deal with a pandemic and avoid exposure. Another possible occupational group at risk is aviation workers due to people travelling around the globe. The recent rapid spread of swine flu across approximately 21 countries is indicative of the potential risk to this group. Therefore training and medical surveillance for such occupational groups should be a high priority. For more information on swine flu please visit the following site NICD.

 


Online health hazard assessment

Complete the questions below to assess your potential risk to biological agents in the workplace. This assessment is only a guide and should not be used as conclusive evidence of your risk in the workplace. If you think you are at potential risk, seek advice and professional assistance from and occupational medicine practitioner for health queries, an occupational hygienist for environmental assessment and a laboratory specializing in the hazard of concern for quality results.