University of Oulu

Salin, J., Ohtonen, P., Andersson, M. A., & Syrjälä, H. (2021). The Toxicity of Wiped Dust and Airborne Microbes in Individual Classrooms Increase the Risk of Teachers’ Work-Related Symptoms: A Cross-Sectional Study. Pathogens, 10(11), 1360. doi:10.3390/pathogens10111360

The toxicity of wiped dust and airborne microbes in individual classrooms increase the risk of teachers’ work-related symptoms

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Author: Salin, Janne1; Ohtonen, Pasi2,3; Andersson, Maria A.4,5;
Organizations: 1The Department of Infection Control, Oulu University Hospital, FI-90029 Oulu, Finland
2Division of Operative Care, Oulu University Hospital, FI-90220 Oulu, Finland
3Research Unit of Surgery, Anesthesia and Intensive Care, University of Oulu, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
4Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland
5Department of Civil Engineering, Aalto University, FI-00076 Aalto, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-01-11


Background: The causes and pathophysiological mechanisms of building-related symptoms (BRS) remain open.

Objective: We aimed to investigate the association between teachers’ individual work-related symptoms and intrinsic in vitro toxicity in classrooms. This is a further analysis of a previously published dataset.

Methods: Teachers from 15 Finnish schools in Helsinki responded to the symptom survey. The boar sperm motility inhibition assay, a sensitive indicator of mitochondrial dysfunction, was used to measure the toxicity of wiped dust and cultured microbial fallout samples collected from the teachers’ classrooms.

Results: 231 teachers whose classroom toxicity data had been collected responded to the questionnaire. Logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, gender, smoking, and atopy showed that classroom dust intrinsic toxicity was statistically significantly associated with the following 12 symptoms reported by teachers (adjusted ORs in parentheses): nose stuffiness (4.1), runny nose (6.9), hoarseness (6.4), globus sensation (9.0), throat mucus (7.6), throat itching (4.4), shortness of breath (12.2), dry cough (4.7), wet eyes (12.7), hypersensitivity to sound (7.9), difficulty falling asleep (7.6), and increased need for sleep (7.7). Toxicity of cultured microbes was found to be associated with nine symptoms (adjusted ORs in parentheses): headache (2.3), nose stuffiness (2.2), nose dryness (2.2), mouth dryness (2.8), hoarseness (2.2), sore throat (2.8), throat mucus (2.3), eye discharge (10.2), and increased need for sleep (3.5).

Conclusions: The toxicity of classroom dust and airborne microbes in boar sperm motility inhibition assay significantly increased teachers’ risk of work-related respiratory and ocular symptoms. Potential pathophysiological mechanisms of BRS are discussed.

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Series: Pathogens
ISSN: 2076-0817
ISSN-E: 2076-0817
ISSN-L: 2076-0817
Volume: 10
Issue: 11
Article number: 1360
DOI: 10.3390/pathogens10111360
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3111 Biomedicine
Funding: This work was supported by the Finnish Work Environment Fund (grant 200262). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, in the writing of the report or in the decision to submit the article for publication.
Dataset Reference: Supplementary materials:
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (