In addition to the biodegradation problems encountered in buildings, exposure of their occupants to moulds is responsible for numerous diseases: infections (invasive nosocomial aspergillosis), immediate or delayed allergies, food-borne infections and different types of irritation. In this context, the aim of our work has been to determine specific chemical tracers for fungal development on construction materials. More generally, by detecting a specific chemical fingerprint of fungal development, our objective was to propose a microbiological alert system which could control systems and/or procedures for the microbiological treatment of indoor areas.
We therefore characterized the chemical emissions from six types of construction material contaminated artificially by moulds. Chemical fingerprints were established for 19 compounds arising specifically from fungal metabolism: 2-ethylhexanoic acid methyl ester, 1-octen-3-ol, 3-heptanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 1,3-octadiene, 2-(5H)-furanone, 2-heptene, α-pinene, 2-methylisoborneol, 4-heptanone, 2-methylfuran, 3-methylfuran, dimethyldisulfide, methoxybenzene, a terpenoid and three sesquiterpenes.
Determining the origin of these compounds and their specific links with a growth substrate or fungal species made it possible to judge the pertinence of choosing these compounds as tracers.
Thus the detecting specific volatile organic compounds emitted as from the second day of fungal growth demonstrated that this approach had the advantage of detecting fungal development both reliably and rapidly before any visible signs of contamination could be detected.
Keywords: VOC; Fungal development; Quality of indoor air; Moulds; Chemical fingerprint
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