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Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2008 Mar;211(1-2):121-31. Epub 2007 Aug 31.

Recommendations for study design and sampling strategies for airborne microorganisms, MVOC and odours in the surrounding of composting facilities.

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Institut für Angewandte Mikrobiologie, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32, 35392 Giessen, Germany.


Microorganisms and odour emissions from composting plants often lead to complaints by residents, especially by people living close to such plants. Both parameters were studied in a systematic approach under specific local meteorological conditions at nine different composting plants in Germany with emphasis on dispersal of microorganisms. Measurements were done at emission points and at sampling sites in the downwind and upwind directions of the facilities under 'normal case' (i.e. weather conditions typical for the location in combination with working activities at the plants) and 'real worst case' conditions (dispersal of bioaerosols into the surroundings expected to occur with high probability). Airborne microorganisms were sampled using filtration and impingement. Subsequent cultivation on four different culture media allowed quantification and identification of the culturable microflora. It turned out that a general assessment of emissions and dispersal of bioaerosols from composting plants is not possible because of the coherences of various factors influencing the dispersal. The site-specific meteorological situations must be considered carefully, whenever sampling locations are selected and need to be recorded in any sampling protocol. Air inversions in particular can lead to high concentrations of microorganisms (>10(4)-10(5)cfu m(-3) of thermophilic actinomycetes and thermotolerant fungi) in the surroundings of composting plants. Finally, it was shown that both thermotolerant fungi and thermophilic actinomycetes can serve as indicator organisms.

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