Sources of airborne endotoxins in ambient air and exposure of nearby communities-A review

Catherine A. Rolph, Ceri L. Gwyther, Sean F. Tyrrel, Zaheer A. Nasir, Gillian H. Drew, Simon K. Jackson, Shagun Khera, Enda T. Hayes, Ben Williams, Allan Bennett, Samuel Collins, Kerry Walsh, Rob Kinnersley, Toni L. Gladding*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Endotoxin is a bioaerosol component that is known to cause respiratory effects in exposed populations. To date, most research focused on occupational exposure, whilst much less is known about the impact of emissions from industrial operations on downwind endotoxin concentrations. A review of the literature was undertaken, identifying studies that reported endotoxin concentrations in both ambient environments and around sources with high endotoxin emissions. Ambient endotoxin concentrations in both rural and urban areas are generally below 10 endotoxin units (EU) m-3; however, around significant sources such as compost facilities, farms, and wastewater treatment plants, endotoxin concentrations regularly exceeded 100 EU m-3. However, this is affected by a range of factors including sampling approach, equipment, and duration. Reported downwind measurements of endotoxin demonstrate that endotoxin concentrations can remain above upwind concentrations. The evaluation of reported data is complicated due to a wide range of different parameters including sampling approaches, temperature, and site activity, demonstrating the need for a standardised methodology and improved guidance. Thorough characterisation of ambient endotoxin levels and modelling of endotoxin from pollution sources is needed to help inform future policy and support a robust health-based risk assessment process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number375
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) (NE/M011763/1; NE/M011631/1; NE/M011747/1; NE/M011658/1). These awards were made under the auspices of the Environmental Microbiology and Human Health programme. This work represents the views of the results and the research, and not the view of the funders.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the authors.


  • Air pollution
  • Bioaerosol
  • Composting facilities
  • Endotoxin
  • Intensive farming


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