Open Access Research article

Microbial volatile organic compound emissions from Stachybotrys chartarum growing on gypsum wallboard and ceiling tile

Doris A Betancourt*, Ken Krebs, Scott A Moore and Shayna M Martin

Author Affiliations

National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, E305-03, Durham, NC 27711, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:283  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-283

Published: 5 December 2013



Stachybotrys chartarum is a filamentous mold frequently identified among the mycobiota of water-damaged building materials. Growth of S. chartarum on suitable substrates and under favorable environmental conditions leads to the production of secondary metabolites such as mycotoxins and microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). The aim of this study was to characterize MVOC emission profiles of seven toxigenic strains of S. chartarum, isolated from water-damaged buildings, in order to identify unique MVOCs generated during growth on gypsum wallboard and ceiling tile coupons. Inoculated coupons were incubated and monitored for emissions and growth using a closed glass environmental growth chamber maintained at a constant room temperature. Gas samples were collected from the headspace for three to four weeks using Tenax TA tubes.


Most of the MVOCs identified were alcohols, ketones, ethers and esters. The data showed that anisole (methoxybenzene) was emitted from all of the S. chartarum strains tested on both types of substrates. Maximum anisole concentration was detected after seven days of incubation.


MVOCs are suitable markers for fungal identification because they easily diffuse through weak barriers like wallpaper, and could be used for early detection of mold growth in hidden cavities. This study identifies the production of anisole by seven toxigenic strains of Stachybotrys chartarum within a period of one week of growth on gypsum wallboard and ceiling tiles. These data could provide useful information for the future construction of a robust MVOC library for the early detection of this mold.

Stachybotrys chartarum; MVOC; Water-damaged building materials