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Fungal pollution of indoor environments and its management (2023)

Indoor environments play a crucial role in human health, as they can expose individuals to various pollution hazards such as allergens, infections, and toxic substances. With modern lifestyle changes, people tend to spend more time indoors, often in tightly sealed spaces. These conditions can foster the growth of both non-biological and biological agents, including fungi, which contribute to indoor air pollution. This article presents an overview of biotic indoor air pollution, with a particular emphasis on fungal contaminants and their impact on health.

Fungal Pollutions in Indoor Environments

Fungal pollution of indoor environments

Fungi are ubiquitous organisms that can be found both outdoors and indoors, and they play a significant role in biotic indoor air pollution. They grow and reproduce by releasing spores into the air, which can be easily inhaled by occupants of a building. In indoor environments, fungi thrive in damp or humid conditions, often resulting from poor ventilation, water leaks, or condensation. Common indoor fungal genera include Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium, and Alternaria.

All around the world, life style changes have resulted in a shift from open air environments to air tight,energy efficient environments at home and work places, where people spend a substantial portion of their time (Chao et al., 2003; Molhave, 2011). In these environments, improper maintenance, poor building design or occupant activities often result in a condition called as ‘‘Sick Building Syndrome’’ (SBS), where occupants experience adverse health effects that appear to link with the time spent in a building (Ebbehoj et al., 2002; Zeliger, 2003).

Allergic reactions: Inhalation of fungal spores can trigger allergic responses in sensitive individuals. Symptoms may include sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, skin rashes, or asthma exacerbations.

Exposure to fungal contaminants can lead to various health effects, depending on factors such as the type of fungi, the level of exposure, and the individual’s sensitivity or predisposition to allergies or infections. Health issues associated with indoor fungal exposure can range from mild to severe and may include:

  1. Allergic reactions: Inhalation of fungal spores can trigger allergic responses in sensitive individuals. Symptoms may include sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, skin rashes, or asthma exacerbations.

  2. Infections: Some fungi, particularly Aspergillus species, can cause infections in immunocompromised individuals or those with underlying lung diseases. Invasive fungal infections can be life-threatening if not treated promptly and appropriately.

  3. Toxicity: Certain fungi produce mycotoxins, which are toxic compounds that can cause a variety of health problems when ingested, inhaled, or come into contact with the skin. Mycotoxin exposure has been linked to neurological disorders, liver damage, and even cancer in some cases.


To mitigate the risks associated with fungal contaminants in indoor environments, several preventive and control measures can be implemented:

  1. Maintain proper humidity levels: Ensuring adequate ventilation and using dehumidifiers can help control humidity levels, thus reducing the likelihood of fungal growth. Ideally, indoor humidity should be maintained between 30-50%.

  2. Promptly address water damage: Water leaks, flooding, or condensation issues should be addressed immediately to prevent the growth and spread of fungi. Regular inspection and maintenance of buildings can help identify potential problems early on.

  3. Clean and disinfect surfaces: Regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, especially in damp areas like bathrooms and kitchens, can inhibit fungal growth. It is essential to use appropriate cleaning agents and methods for effective fungal removal.

  4. Use air purifiers: Air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters can help reduce airborne fungal spores and improve overall indoor air quality.

  5. Encourage occupants’ awareness: Educating building occupants about the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality and the potential health risks associated with fungal exposure can encourage them to take necessary precautions and report any concerns promptly.

In conclusion, the presence of fungi in indoor environments can significantly impact human health, contributing to allergies, infections, and toxicity. With modern lifestyles leading to increased time spent indoors, it is crucial to recognize the potential hazards associated with biotic indoor air pollution and implement appropriate preventive and control measures. By focusing on fungi as contaminants and understanding their effects on health, we can create healthier indoor spaces and promote the wellbeing of building occupants.



Saudi Journal of Biological Science
A.A. Haleem Khan *, S. Mohan Karuppayil 1




Corresponding author. Mobile: 09848588901.
E-mail addresses: (A.A. Haleem Khan), (S. Mohan Karuppayil).
1 Mobile: 09028528438.
Peer review under responsibility of King Saud University.

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