Sources of airborne microorganisms in the built environment
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Each day people are exposed to millions of bioaerosols, including whole microorganisms, which can have both beneficial and detrimental effects. The next chapter in understanding the airborne microbiome of the built environment is characterizing the various sources of airborne microorganisms and the relative contribution of each. We have identified the following eight major categories of sources of airborne bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the built environment: humans; pets; plants; plumbing systems; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems; mold; dust resuspension; and the outdoor environment. Certain species are associated with certain sources, but the full potential of source characterization and source apportionment has not yet been realized. Ideally, future studies will quantify detailed emission rates of microorganisms from each source and will identify the relative contribution of each source to the indoor air microbiome. This information could then be used to probe fundamental relationships between specific sources and human health, to design interventions to improve building health and human health, or even to provide evidence for forensic investigations.