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You're Wearing Millions of Bacteria

According to new research, a person's mere presence in a room can add 37 million bacteria to the air every hour, in the form of material left behind by previous occupants and stirred up from the floor.

Americans spend more than 90% of their time inside. Science Daily quotes environmental engineer Jordan Peccia as saying, "We live in this microbial soup, and a big ingredient is our own microorganisms. Mostly people are re-suspending what's been deposited before. The floor dust turns out to be the major source of the bacteria that we breathe."

Peccia and his research team measured and analyzed biological particles in a single, ground-floor university classroom over a period of eight days--four days when the room was periodically occupied, and four days when the room was continuously vacant. At all times the windows and doors were kept closed. The air conditioning was operated at normal levels.

Peccia says that overall, they found that occupancy resulted in especially large spikes for larger-sized fungal particles and medium-sized bacterial particles. The size of bacteria- and fungi-bearing particles is important, because size affects the degree to which they are likely to be filtered from the air or linger and recirculate. Carpeted rooms appear to retain especially high amounts of microorganisms, but this does not necessarily mean rugs and carpets should be removed. Extremely few of the microorganisms commonly found indoors--less than 0.1%--are infectious.

Peccia says, "All those infectious diseases we get, we get indoors."

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