Comparative testing and evaluation of nine different air samplers: End-to-end sampling efficiencies as specific performance measurements for bioaerosol applications
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAerosol Science and Technology. 2014, 48 (3), 282-295. 10.1080/02786826.2013.871501
Accurate exposure assessments are needed to evaluate health hazards caused by airborne microorganisms and require air samplers that efficiently capture representative samples. This highlights the need for samplers with well-defined performance characteristics. While generic aerosol performance measurements are fundamental to evaluate/compare samplers, the added complexity caused by the diversity of microorganisms, especially in combination with cultivation-based analysis methods, may render such measurements inadequate to assess suitability for bioaerosols. Specific performance measurements that take into account the end-to-end sampling process, targeted bioaerosol and analysis method could help guide selection of air samplers. Nine different samplers (impactors/impingers/cyclones/ electrostatic precipitators/filtration samplers) were subjected to comparative performance testing in this work. Their end-to-end cultivation-based biological sampling efficiencies (BSEs) and PCR-/microscopy-based physical sampling efficiencies (PSEs) relative to a reference sampler (BioSampler) were determined for gram-negative and gram-positive vegetative bacteria, bacterial spores, and viruses. Significant differences were revealed among the samplers and shown to depend on the bioaerosol's stress–sensitivity and particle size. Samplers employing dry collection had lower BSEs for stress-sensitive bioaerosols than wet collection methods, while nonfilter-based samplers showed reduced PSEs for 1 μm compared to 4 μm bioaerosols. Several samplers were shown to underestimate bioaerosol concentration levels relative to the BioSampler due to having lower sampling efficiencies, although they generally obtained samples that were more concentrated due to having higher concentration factors. Our work may help increase user awareness about important performance criteria for bioaerosol sampling, which could contribute to methodological harmonization/standardization and result in more reliable exposure assessments for airborne pathogens and other bioaerosols of interest.