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Airborne Disease Control

Wladyslaw Jan Kowalski


The air that you breathe indoors may be dangerous to your health. How can we make indoor environments safer?

  • Apply aerobiological engineering principles to buildings to control the bioaerosols in our indoor environments.
  • Retrofit old buildings or specifically design new buildings to control airborne microbes.
  • Develop regulatory standards for indoor environments.
  • Become educated about sources and transmission routes of airborne pathogens.

November 2008

Aspergillus fumigatus is a fungus whose spores are common inhalation pollutants that pose a health hazard. Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is in the air in your home, where you work, or in public buildings? There may be bioaerosols — airborne biological contaminants. Aerobiological health hazards affect everyone on a daily basis and include allergens, mold spores, bacteria, and viruses that cause infectious diseases. How can these hazards be controlled indoors?

Hazardous bioaerosols are around us all the time.

Aerobiological engineering is a field of study that combines elements of engineering and microbiology that focus on reducing the risk of airborne disease by controlling the aerobiology of our indoor environments. It offers some solutions to the hazards of bioaerosols:

  • Existing technologies can collectively control these bioaerosols if we retrofit old buildings or specifically design new buildings to control airborne microbes.
  • By re-engineering our buildings on city-wide scales, the population can be broadly protected and potentially immunized against epidemics.
  • Developing standards for indoor environments and educating the public are critical steps to transforming our disease-prone society.

Wladyslaw Jan Kowalski, PE, PhD, is an expert in the control of airborne diseases and the design of immune building systems for bioterrorism defense. He has published numerous articles on the problem of microbial contamination and gives lectures on bioterrorism defense and related disease control topics. His recent book, Immune Building Systems Technology (McGraw-Hill, 2002), has been widely acknowledged as a seminal work that has brought critical engineering and scientific information into the hands of designers and researchers around the globe. Kowalski is a research associate at Pennsylvania State University’s Indoor Environment Center, where he continues to conduct research into immune building systems and aerobiological engineering technologies.

Airborne Disease Control

Bioaerosol Interactive Computer Program

This interactive and animated computer program is designed for aerosol science and engineering education in the introductory level. Each module in the program contains a narrative of the background/principles and a web calculator/simulator. Check out the Bioaerosol program, including animated graphics.

Aerobiological Engineering

Penn State Indoor Environment Center explains the field of study.

Article downloads about this engineering field.

Removing Particulates, Bioaerosols, & Volatile Organic Compounds

A study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that indoor exposure to harmful air pollutants could be up to 100 times greater than outdoors. The EPA now classifies indoor air quality as one of our most important environmental concerns.

Bioaerosol Evaluation in Indoor Environments

Information for public facility management.

Indoor Bioaerosols for Public Employees

General information for those who serve the public about indoor bioaerosols, how to identify bioaerosol contamination and its sources, and the control bioaerosols in the indoor environment.

For educators: Aerosol Science & Engineering Modules

Interactive and animated computer program designed for aerosol science and engineering education in the introductory college level. One of the modules focuses on bioaerosols. From the University of Florida and Washington University in St. Louis.

  1. Kowalski, W. J. 2002. Immune Building Systems Technology. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Zhang, Y., X. Wang, G. L. Riskowski, L. L. Christianson. 2001. Quantifying ventilation effectiveness for air quality control. Transactions of the ASAE 44(2): 385-390.
  3. Haas, C. N., J. B. Rose, C. P. Gerba. 1999. Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  4. Kowalski, W. J. 2005. Aerobiological Engineering Handbook: A Guide to Airborne Disease Control Technologies. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  5. Fisk, W. 1994. The California healthy buildings study. Center for Building Science News 2: 7. (accessed Nov. 11, 2009) _Link no longer available 4/26/10.
  6. International Ultraviolet Association. 2005. General Guideline for UVGI Air and Surface Disinfection Systems. Ayr, Ontario, Canada: International Ultraviolet Association. Report # IUVA-G01A-2005.
  7. Mumma, S. A. 2001. Designing dedicated outdoor air systems. ASHRAE Journal 43(5): 28-31.
  8. American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 2006. ASHRAE GreenGuide, 2nd ed. Grumman, D. L. (ed). Atlanta: ASHRAE.
  9. Fisk, W., A. Rosenfeld. 1997. Improved productivity and health from better indoor environments. Center for Building Science News 15: 5. (accessed Nov. 11, 2009). Link no longer available 4/26/10.


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