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Effects of Temperature, Humidity and Air Flow on Fungal Growth Rate on Loaded Ventilation Filters.

Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene (2015-04-08)
W Tang, T H Kuehn, Matt F Simcik

This study compares the fungal growth ratio on loaded ventilation filters under various temperature, relative humidity (RH), and air flow conditions in a controlled laboratory setting. A new full-size commercial building ventilation filter was loaded with malt extract nutrients and conidia of Cladosporium sphaerospermum in an ASHRAE Standard 52.2 filter test facility. Small sections cut from this filter were incubated under the following conditions: constant room temperature and a high RH of 97%; sinusoidal temperature (with an amplitude of 10°C, an average of 23°C, and a period of 24 hr) and a mean RH of 97%; room temperature and step changes between 97% and 75% RH, 97% and 43% RH, and 97% and 11% RH every 12 hr. The biomass on the filter sections was measured using both an elution-culture method and by ergosterol assay immediately after loading and every 2 days up to 10 days after loading. Fungal growth was detected earlier using ergosterol content than with the elution-culture method. A student's t-test indicated that Cladosporium sphaerospermum grew better at the constant room temperature condition than at the sinusoidal temperature condition. By part-time exposure to dry environments, the fungal growth was reduced (75% and 43% RH) or even inhibited (11% RH). Additional loaded filters were installed in the wind tunnel at room temperature and an RH greater than 95% under one of two air flow test conditions: continuous air flow or air flow only 9 hr/day with a flow rate of 0.7 m(3)/s (filter media velocity 0.15 m/s). Swab tests and a tease mount method were used to detect fungal growth on the filters at day 0, 5, and 10. Fungal growth was detected for both test conditions, which indicates that when temperature and relative humidity are optimum, controlling the air flow alone cannot prevent fungal growth. In real applications where nutrients are less sufficient than in this laboratory study, fungal growth rate may be reduced under the same operating conditions.

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