Detection and characterisation of inflammatory agents associated with bioaerosol emitted from biowaste and intensive agriculture

Lead Research Organisation: Cranfield University
Department Name: School of Water, Energy and Environment

Abstract

The biowaste (eg composting) and intensive agriculture (eg housed poultry / pigs) industries emit bioaerosol of significance to human health. Whilst some progress has been made in characterising emissions from these industries relatively little headway has been made regarding the linked research questions of: understanding exposure of the general public to bioaerosol; putting process-based exposures into the context of background exposure to natural bioaerosol (or other anthropogenic sources); quantifying health risk and setting health-based standards. A critical limiting factor in all of these areas is the lack of advanced microbiological methods (sampling, analytical, interpretative) to quantify and qualify bioaerosol emissions and dispersion. Our current evidence base is almost entirely reliant on short duration "snapshot" sampling and culture-dependent microbiology. Whilst traditional microbiology remains fit for purpose in specific circumstances, new fast and efficient methods are needed to understand the nature and significance of non-viable bioaerosol fractions and to develop a new generation of monitoring approaches to deal with the research questions posed above.
Aerosolised endotoxin is an attractive research subject in the context of this NERC programme. It is ubiquitous in biowaste and agricultural emissions. Previous occupational bioaerosol research has established an exposure-response relationship. In the Netherlands, endotoxin is regarded as the prime candidate for health-based bioaerosol emission limits / exposure guidelines for workers and the public. Yet, confidence in the development and implementation of evidence-based regulation of this bioaerosol molecule continues to be constrained by gaps in our fundamental understanding of the nature of endotoxin in ambient air which in turn stems from limitations in measurement techniques. In this research we aim to develop new methodologies capable of characterising and quantifying emissions of endotoxin in air.
Objectives
- develop new methods to size fractionate endotoxin and elucidate structural features;
- develop a novel biosensor for rapid detection of endotoxin, other inflammatory agents and cells (live/dead)
- use the WIBS real-time bioaerosol sensor to understand emission and dispersion of bioaerosol including endotoxin
- characterise industry-specific bioaerosol emissions at composting and farm sites
- detect microbial pathogens at biowaste and intensive agricultural facilities using novel methods
- generate improved exposure assessments around biowaste / intensive agricultural facilities using dispersion modelling and Openair.
Whilst our work plan focuses on new endotoxin detection methods we are cogniscent of the fact that there are other biomolecules in air that promote inflammation when inhaled. These will be detected by the novel biosensor and we aim to distinguish the signalling pathways and demonstrate how the cells respond to different biomolecular challenges.
The research team has unparalleled experience in translating cutting edge bioaerosol science into policy and practice. Uncertainty with respect to health effects from regulated industrial processes is deleterious to all stakeholders concerned including the public, regulators, the Government, industry and investors. The public remains fearful of the potential health impacts. Regulators face uncertainty in terms of striking the right balance between public health protection and encouraging economic development. Planning and licensing delays constrain Government waste strategy and economic development initiatives and create problems for entrepreneurs trying to deliver Government targets and establish viable businesses. Whilst this research will be underpinned by excellent new science, it is clear that the impact agenda is driven by the potential for translating this into a regulatory science evidence base, new regulatory guidance and models for the protection of public health.

Planned Impact

The key beneficiaries of this research are:
-Policy makers and regulators of biowaste and intensive agriculture
-The biowaste and intensive agriculture industry
-Industry associations e.g. Renewable Energy Association and NFU
-The general public living near these facilities
-Health Services, Health & Safety Executive and Public Health England

Emission of bioaerosols from composting and intensive agriculture is a critical concern for the public; for the industry, which needs to generate the business confidence required to secure investment in new infrastructure (and which often faces opposition from local people at the planning stage); for regulators who need robust evidence for proportionate decisions; and for the delivery of the Government waste strategy.

The impact of this proposal falls into three categories from the RCUK typologies:

Improving health & wellbeing
The results from this research will be used to improve current bioaerosol dispersion modelling protocols, allowing improved predictions of downwind concentrations and the duration of exposure to bioaerosols from composting. This research will provide a significant step towards defining clear exposure limits for environmental exposure to bioaerosols.

Evidence based policy-making and influencing public policies
The Environment Agency (EA) based its first position statement on bioaerosols from composting in 2001 on the limited bioaerosols information available at the time at a time of unprecedented growth in the UK composting industry. The EA had to strike a balance between: the precautionary principle (in the absence of a strong evidence base); the commercial needs of a burgeoning industry; and the national requirement to divert organic waste from landfill. Whilst the evidence base has been significantly strengthened in the past ten years, there is a way to go before regulatory policy on bioaerosols in ambient air could be considered stable (the fact that the current position statement is referred to as "interim" guidance indicates that regulation is expected to change as new information becomes available). The EA currently has no formal position statement on bioaerosols from intensive agriculture and it needs one.

The research consortium has strong links with the EA. The key impact of this research will be improvements in the EA's ability to regulate composting and intensive agriculture, as well as influencing the planning and design of control mechanisms for bioaerosols, essential for improving the health and wellbeing of UK citizens. This research will provide the scientific evidence to support regulatory decision making and provide confidence to the public that these facilities can be safely operated.

Enhancing the research capacity, knowledge and skills of public, private and third sector organisations
This research will benefit the site operators by developing and testing novel methods for monitoring bioaerosols; provide insights into the mechanisms that influence dispersal of bioaerosol emissions; and support the development of procedures to reduce their impacts on the environment. Additionally, the novel science generated may reduce the requirement for expensive monitoring regimes and so provide economic benefits to site operators.

Other potential beneficiaries include industry bodies who are providing information to their members regarding bioaerosols, and who have experienced difficulties due to the lack of information in this area. These include the Renewable Energy Association, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management and the NFU.

We also anticipate commercial opportunities arising from the research. We have strong links with Droplet Measurement Technologies who are developing the WIBS and with Lonza who make endotoxin detection kits.

The mechanisms to achieve impact are described in the Pathways to Impact.
 
Description We have reason to believe that exposure to industrial bioaerosol emissions could be harmful to human health. Regulatory agencies have, for several years, taken a precautionary approach to protecting public health based upon the available and steadily growing evidence base. There are however knowledge gaps which create uncertainty. The regulatory science research challenges include:
• Identifying the most potent bioaerosol emission sources
• Quantifying the effectiveness of emission control measures
• Determining safe distances between facilities and sensitive receptors
• Confidence in dispersion modelling to simulate exposures
• Placing waste and agricultural exposures into the context of exposure from other sources;
• Quantifying health risk and setting health-based standards
• Monitoring the right things
Resolving these challenges has been are constrained by the microbiological methods available. This project aimed to tackle some of these constraints and in doing so to improve exposure assessment, understand exposure response relationships and contribute to proportionate regulation and cost effective compliance monitoring.
We have simultaneously deployed conventional and advanced microbiological methods to characterise better the industrial emissions from composting and poultry houses. In doing so we have detected potential pathogens in low numbers, identified the predominant culturable organisms and confirmed that very high numbers of culturable bacteria are emitted from these sources.
We have carried out extensive laboratory and field analysis of the size fractions in which endotoxin - a pro-inflammatory chemical - is found. We have found high concentrations of endotoxin in both the compost and poultry emissions. These concentrations decline quickly with distance. Most of the endotoxin is associated with larger aerosol particles which don't travel far. Nevertheless there is appreciable endotoxin in the more mobile finer aerosol fractions.
A novel sensor was used to detect fluorescent particulate matter in real-time. There is strong evidence to suggest that this strongly fluorescent aerosol is biological in origin. We have shown that real-time monitoring of fluorescent particles are correlated with site activity. This real-time assessment of emissions is not possible with available, conventional methods and may have implications for emissions monitoring in the future.
We have established the size distribution of these fluorescent particles and showed that this distribution differs between compost and chicken house emissions. The fluorescence spectra are being analysed and this is providing new insights into how we might target specific bacteria and fungi in the future with simple low cost sensors.
There is great potential for bioaerosol air dispersion to be simulated using computer models. Over recent years there has been progress with regards modelling approaches but there remain important gaps. In this project we have created a new database of emission characteristics which is improving our modelling methods. We have deployed improved models to simulate dispersion from the sites we have studied. In parallel work supported by this project we have applied our improved modelling approaches to bioaerosol modelling at a national scale. Whilst good progress is being made there remains a great deal to do to achieve confidence on bioaerosol modelling.
One of the fundamental challenges in the field of environmental microbiology and human health is to understand and relate bioaerosol exposure to human health impact. We have developed a physiologically-relevant co-culture model of alveolar macrophages (MPI cells) and epithelial cells and exposed this co-culture to samples collected at the industrial sites we have studied. We have confirmed the immune reactivity of compost aerosol - especially from the coarse fraction - further confirming the link between endotoxin exposure and health-relevant cell response. The compost-derived endotoxin is more reactive in the cell model than that from the chicken houses suggesting interesting new avenues in understanding inflammatory mechanisms which we are pursuing. The cell model is highly responsive to endotoxin suggesting its potential future use as a biosensor. There is very strong evidence to suggest that the MPI cells trigger damage and cell death in the alveolar epithelial cells when exposed to endotoxin, and that this reaction is associated with significant cytokine production.
Exploitation Route The findings are of use to the environmental regulators in developing their policy on regulating waste management facilities and intensive agriculture facilities. Our findings will be of interest to manufacturers of bioaerosol monitoring sensors.
Sectors Environment

 
Description The findings of this research are continuously being fed through to the Environment Agency in support of their evolving updates on bioaerosol regulation from industrial facilities. For instance our research has informed the recent publication by the Environment Agency of its Technical Guidance Note M9 on the Environment monitoring of Bioaerosols at Regulated Facilities
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description M9 National Bioaerosols Monitoring Protocol
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Improved monitoring for bioaerosols around intensive agriculture and waste management sites - although M9 is not yet released some of the discussions have been around some of the propriety research for the NERC work which has influenced how results are now being interpreted by the Environment Agency.
 
Description Science to policy working group set up as part of NERC EM&HH Programme Integration Group work package
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Improving Health with Environmental Data (NERC 2016)
Amount £29,688 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P010806/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 04/2018
 
Title Non-viable Andersen Impactor 
Description Using an existing air sampler for a new method of endotoxin collection in highly contaminated environments. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Still in development - but we believe this method of air sampling (high volume filtration based) will be a future M9 National Protocol for collection of endotoxin for the purposes of regulation. 
 
Title Sampling and analysis of endotoxin 
Description Perfecting whether endotoxin storage and transport after sampling e.g. freezing, not-freezing, filter material etc. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Updating of sampling protocol within NERC project which will eventually be published. 
 
Description Collaboration with EA 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Contributions to EA policy
Collaborator Contribution Contributions of policy background and regulatory science
Impact M9 Technical Guidance Note
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with HSE (through PHE) 
Organisation Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution PHE and HSE are meeting regularly to discuss the issues of mutual interest arising from Endotox II
Collaborator Contribution HSE have significant bioaerosols expertise and contribute knowledge to the project team.
Impact On going meetings
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with RIVM in Netherlands 
Organisation National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Established link with RIVM through networking at conference
Collaborator Contribution RIVM have set up a joint NL - UK bioaerosol meeting
Impact Joint meeting in Bilthoven in 2017
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with dstl 
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Meetings hosted at Cranfield
Collaborator Contribution Meetings hosted at dstl
Impact Collaborative information exchange
Start Year 2015
 
Description Environment and Human Health programme integration conference meeting 
Organisation Cranfield University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Organised the programme integration conference
Collaborator Contribution gave talks at the conference
Impact determination of experimental approaches and data management
Start Year 2017
 
Description Odour and Bioaerosol Research Proposal with University College Dublin 
Organisation Cranfield University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution EndotoxII researchers from University of the West of England and Cranfield University collaborated with University College Dublin to bid into the Irish EPA STRIVE Research Programme to undertake research on odour and bioaerosol monitoring and modelling for agriculture and waste facilities. Unfortunately the proposal was unsuccessful
Collaborator Contribution EndotoxII researchers from University of the West of England and Cranfield University collaborated with University College Dublin to bid into the Irish EPA STRIVE Research Programme to undertake research on odour and bioaerosol monitoring and modelling for agriculture and waste facilities. Unfortunately the proposal was unsuccessful
Impact N/A
Start Year 2017
 
Description UWE/Imperial Modelling Collaboration 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Department of Chemistry
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration has brought two modelling and data analytic groups together who have been working on developing dispersion modelling protocols for composting facilities in England and determine the health impact of bioaerosols in the vicinity of these facilities.
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration has provided opportunities for knowledge sharing to enhance the quality, assumptions and accuracy of the modelling scenarios being developed in EntotoxII project.
Impact Collaboration brings air quality practitioners and public health professionals together. The collaboration has led to the development and submission of a successful proposal to NERC to run a short parallel research project entitled "BIOlogical air pollution Modelling and associations with Lung Disease (BIOMOLD)" (see Funding section). While EndotoxII will focus on the enhancement of dispersion modelling scenarios and the integration of novel datasets at one particular site, the BIOMOLD project will undertake basic modelling for every composting site in England to determine exposure and potential health impacts.
Start Year 2016
 
Description UWE/NILU Data Analysis Collaboration 
Organisation Norwegian Institute for Air Research
Country Norway 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This collaboration brings together data analysis professionals to discuss data analysis techniques particularly related to SIBS monitoring data. UWE has offered an approach using the R Statistical Programme and the Openair package.
Collaborator Contribution NILU has provided a knowledge sharing opportunity to discuss data analysis approaches. Techniques discussed include the potential applications of machine learning / artificial intelligence and principal component analysis.
Impact No output as yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Title Development of SIBS 
Description The firmware and analytical toolkit associated with the SIBS is under continuous development by Droplet Measurement Technologies 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The SIBS is a novel real-time bioaerosol monitor. As a result of Cranfield's research, DMT are improving their device and the approaches to data analysis 
 
Description AWE International, Issue 48, Pages; 47-53. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An article was published in AWE International - the magazine's focus is the impact of industry on the environment and the analytical processes used to assess that impact. We discussed capability requirements to advance bioaerosols risk assessment and management from industrial processes and offer a snapshot view of capabilities of a novel fluorescence based bioaerosol sensor unit to advance bioaerosols emissions characterisation from industrial sources.

The publisher is interested in follow up article.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.aweimagazine.com/article/real-time-bioaerosol-detection
 
Description Aerosol Society Bioaerosol Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact An Aerosol Society focus group meeting on Bioaerosol held at the University of Bristol 8th of June 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://aerosol-soc.com/events/bioaerosols-focus-meeting-10/
 
Description Annual Programme Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The final Programme Conference disseminating research findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description EAC2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at the European Aerosol Conference 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Emissions Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Specialist industry conference attended by around 60-70 people. Attendees were both site operators and consultants who carry out environmental monitoring. A series of presentations followed by a panel debate of four people, two of which are PIs on this NERC grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.regonline.co.uk/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1620265
 
Description Environment Agency Bioaerosol Expert Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Sean Tyrrel and Toni Gladding met with EA and SEPA professionals and bioaerosol monitoring consultants to update on our research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description ISES 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Informal meeting NESTA Challenge Prize 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Broad talk and discussion on air quality challenges in the UK. This included an overview of the EndotoxII project, sources of bioaerosols and the impact on health. This talk will be used to inform a workshop in March 2017 to build towards the development of a new NESTA Challenge Prize.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Informal meeting Taylor University Kuala Lumpur 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Overview presentation to academics from Taylor University on air quality management research at UWE including a detailed overview of the EndotoxII project aims and objectives. This presentation raised awareness of the potential sources and impact of bioaerosols while also exploring the transboundary impact of biomass burning in SE Asia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description International Network of Environmental Forensics Conference (10-12 July 2017, Beijing, China) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on 'Spatial and temporal modelling of bioaerosols from intensive agricultural facilities in England' by Ben Williams (UWE) to an audience of environmental forensic scientists and policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.rsc-inef.net/inef-2017.html
 
Description Meeting between Allan Bennett PHE and RIVM Netherlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting to discuss work carried out by RIVM in the dispersion of pathogens and antibiotic resistant bacteria from intensive farms and related issues
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description NERC Environmental Microbiology and Human Health Programme Annual Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In the annual programme conference we invited policymakers and practitioners to present and discuss the need for environmental microbiology research, the share latest findings and to help to develop the forward research agenda. Held in September 2017 in Birmingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description RAMBIE-EndotoxII meeting with stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A cross project meeting between the RAMBIE and Endotox II projects with invited stakeholders from the EA and dstl.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description REA Annual Bioaerosol Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Member of an expert panel debating the implementation of proposed new bioaerosol monitoring arrangements in England
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description RIVM-PHE Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact RIVM & PHE have a formal link. Resulting from their joint interest in bioaerosols and public health a meeting was organised to share UK / NL recent research. Held in Bilthoven in April 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Science to Policy meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Kick-off meeting of a science into policy working group involving the EA, PHE, Defra. Discussion regarding the Science into Policy Regulatory Consensus work package. Participants agreed to form the steering group. Outputs to be developed are a survey to determine key legislation and guidance; a policy/legislation review; and two events. Events will focus on horizon scanning and AMR. Dates to be decided
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Science to policy workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A round table expert panel communicating Programme findings to policymakers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Symposium - Bioaerosols, microbiome and lung disease 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Joint meeting of Public Health England and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands with bioaerosol researchers to explore and disseminate latest research and thinking on bioaerosols in the UK and the Netherlands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UK Aerosol Society Focus Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting bring UK and International academics, practitioners and industry together to discussion and share current knowledge on bioaerosol monitoring and modelling and how this may influence regulatory processes and policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/26517/bioaerosols-aerosol-society-focus-meeting-10
 
Description Waste Industry Safety and Health Bioaerosols sub-group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Specialist group to write guidance for the waste industry regarding bioaerosols. The outcomes of the NERC research will feed into this group, which ultimately will go to the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) national guidance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://wish.org.uk