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Dust analyses of indoor air

While much attention has been paid to outdoor dust pollution in recent years, it is not on the list of factors influencing health indoors. Depending on quality and quantity, dust can have negative effects on well-being and health and allows conclusions to be drawn about other indoor pollutants and impurities.

ResearchMeasurements & MonitoringInterior

Dust is composed of particles of organic and inorganic substances of different size, origin and structure. The quantitative dust load is described on the basis of the mass of different size fractions, new analysis possibilities of dusts enable the allocation to emission sources on the basis of qualitative investigations.

Dust sources can be internal or external: Abrasion of building and equipment materials and electrical appliances, paintwork, combustion processes (open flames, cigarette smoke) or emissions from traffic and industry contribute to dust pollution in the interior. Dust can have negative effects on health and should therefore be regarded as risk factors indoors.

Very small particles in the air are transported with gases, absorbed during breathing and thus enter the human material cycle. This can lead to irritation of the respiratory tract and allergies, in the worst case to lung cancer. In particular, the length/diameter ratio of dust particles is relevant with regard to health effects: Asbestos and KMF dusts are carcinogenic, but hardwood fibres or highly alkaline dusts such as cement dust can also have serious health effects if exposed for an appropriate period of time.

Within the scope of the project different sampling methods for dust analysis are tested (air sampling, suction with special filters, surface samples), simulation calculations of dust transport by convection are carried out and particle analyses are carried out using a scanning electron microscope. In addition, the correlation between dust concentration, composition and physiological parameters is investigated.

Project team

HFA - Holzforschung Austria (Project lead)
IBO – Österreichisches Institut für Baubiologie und –ökologie
KOV - Österreichischer Kachelofenverband
FELMI-ZFE - Institut für Elektronenmikroskopie und Nanoanalytik

Research period

March 2018 – August 2019

Funding Institutions

BMDW (Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs), ACR - Austrian Cooperative Research

Small artefacts in a large matrix or components of unknown size in the base material can be visualized using large-scale elemental distribution images. For example, Icelandic volcanic rock, which is found on the beach near Búðir, was investigated (pink - aluminum, yellow - silicon, green - calcium, turquoise - magnesium).
Immunogold electron microscopy makes it possible to visualize germs and allergens in the air and to analyze them subsequently (fine-dust filter: white dots mark location of the allergen).