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Issue 6, 2013
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Furry pet allergens, fungal DNA and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) in the commercial aircraft cabin environment

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Abstract

There has been concern about the cabin environment in commercial aircraft. We measured cat, dog and horse allergens and fungal DNA in cabin dust and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) in cabin air. Samples were collected from two European airline companies, one with cabins having textile seats (TSC) and the other with cabins having leather seats (LSC), 9 airplanes from each company. Dust was vacuumed from seats and floors in the flight deck and different parts of the cabin. Cat (Fel d1), dog (Can f1) and horse allergens (Equ cx) were analyzed by ELISA. Five sequences of fungal DNA were analyzed by quantitative PCR. MVOCs were sampled on charcoal tubes in 42 TSC flights, and 17 compounds were analyzed by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) with selective ion monitoring (SIM). MVOC levels were compared with levels in homes from Nordic countries. The weight of dust was 1.8 times larger in TSC cabins as compared to LSC cabins (p < 0.001). In cabins with textile seats, the geometric mean (GM) concentrations of Fel d1, Can f1 and Equ cx were 5359 ng g−1, 6067 ng g−1, and 13 703 ng g−1 (GM) respectively. Levels of Fel d1, Can f1 and Equ cx were 50 times, 27 times and 75 times higher respectively, in TSC cabins as compared to LSC cabins (p < 0.001). GM levels of Aspergillus/Penicillium DNA, Aspergillus versicolor DNA, Stachybotrys chartarum DNA and Streptomyces DNA were all higher in TSC as compared to LSC (p < 0.05). The sum of MVOCs in cabin air (excluding butanols) was 3192 ng m−3 (GM), 3.7 times higher than in homes (p < 0.001) and 2-methyl-1-butanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol concentrations were 15–17 times higher as compared to homes (p < 0.001). Concentrations of isobutanol, 1-butanol, dimethyldisulfide, 2-hexanone, 2-heptanone, 3-octanone, isobutyl acetate and ethyl-2-methylbutyrate were lower in cabin air as compared to homes (p < 0.05). In conclusion, textile seats are much more contaminated by pet allergens and fungal DNA than leather seats. The use of seats with smooth surfaces should be encouraged. The MVOC levels differed between cabin air and homes.

Graphical abstract: Furry pet allergens, fungal DNA and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) in the commercial aircraft cabin environment

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Article information


Submitted
29 Nov 2012
Accepted
09 Apr 2013
First published
09 Apr 2013

Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2013,15, 1228-1234
Article type
Paper

Furry pet allergens, fungal DNA and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) in the commercial aircraft cabin environment

X. Fu, T. Lindgren, M. Guo, G. Cai, H. Lundgren and D. Norbäck, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2013, 15, 1228
DOI: 10.1039/C3EM30928B

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