Understanding and mitigating the challenge of bioaerosol emissions from urban community composting

L. J. Pankhurst, U. Akeel, C. Hewson, I. Maduka, P. Pham, J. Saragossi, J. Taylor, Ka Man LAI*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Within the UK, local and regional government drives to reduce the quantity of waste being sent to landfill have led to an increase in small-scale composting schemes, instigated by local councils and not-for-profit organisations. The composting process relies upon the proliferation of microorganisms, leading to their emission into the ambient environment. In this investigative study, total bacteria and Aspergillus fumigatus emitted from a small-scale composting facility in central London were measured in different spatial and temporal dimensions. Bioaerosols did not disperse in concentrations significantly higher than those measured at 'background' locations, where maximum geometric mean was 55×102 Colony Forming Units (CFU) per m-3. Concentrations on-site and at the nearest potential receptor were comparable to those found at commercial facilities, reaching 25×104 and 29×103CFUm-3 for total bacteria and A. fumigatus respectively. The room housing the facility was contaminated by moulds; likely to result from high relative humidity of the air (consistently above 80% during this study), building material, and the generation of organic dust. The complex diurnal meteorological variations of urban environments are likely to influence bioaerosol dispersal, and consequent exposure risk for sensitive receptors. Site planning tools including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping with buffer zones around schools and hospitals, and use of computerised models for the design of rooms housing urban composting facilities are proposed as methods for reducing the risk of occupational and off-site receptor exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-93
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Aspergillus fumigatus
  • Bioaerosols
  • Composting
  • Public health
  • Urban environments


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