2020 Volume 37 Pages 64-84
Microorganisms are ubiquitous in the environment. Wherever their sources are present, the particles can be released into the air forming microbiological aerosols. Although most of their particles cause no harm to the exposed individuals, some of their propagules may have infectious or allergenic potential and may carry toxic or irritant substances and components. Their inhalation usually poses a significant health risk and is responsible for numerous adverse outcomes, from allergic reactions, infections and toxic responses to various nonspecific symptoms. This review article provides fundamental background information on the role of microorganisms in the environment, defines and characterizes environmental sources of microbial aerosols, describes microbial abilities for airborne transport and comments on their role in atmospheric processes, discusses their physical and biological characteristics which result in adverse health outcomes observed in exposed individuals. The paper characterizes comprehensively numerous sampling and analysis techniques involved in the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of microbial aerosols together with their practical applications, presents strategies applied in the assessment of harmful microbial agents formed by bioaerosols, explains the ways of creating hygienic standards (understood here as reference/threshold limits) for microbiological aerosols conditioned by both medical and environmental determinants, and comments on their usefulness in the control and protection of environment and health.