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Could Your Compost Kill You

Could Your Compost Kill You

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Published by Chhaya
health, compost
health, compost

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Published by: Chhaya on Oct 01, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Could your compost kill you? Bacteria thatcan cause disease in humans - and even death- is present in bags of organic material
By Sarah Griffiths  Bags of compost sold in the UK may be a significant source of Legionella bacteria, includingstrains that cause human disease, scientists have said
Bags of compost sold in the UK may be a significant source of Legionella bacteria, including strains that cause human disease, scientists have said.
Tests on 22 brands of compost available in the UK found that 14 contained avariety of Legionella bugs.
Scottish researchers warned that four showed evidence of Legionellalongbeachae, which can cause serious infections leading to admission tohospital or death.
Dr Tara Beattie, from the University of Strathclyde, who led the research, said:'Disease causing micro-organisms are widespread in the environment, andtherefore it is not too surprising that species of Legionella that can cause humandisease are present in compost.
'Any environment where you have pathogenic bacteria could be a source of infection, and we already know that compost has been linked to humanLegionella infection in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
'Within the UK and across Europe, composts have traditionally been composedof peat, whereas sawdust and bark are more often used to produce compost inAustralia and New Zealand where Legionellosis associated with compost ismore common.
Dr Tara Beattie, from the University of Strathclyde, said: 'Disease causing micro-organisms arewidespread in the environment, and therefore it is not too surprising that species of Legionella(pictured) that can cause human disease are present in compost'
Legionella longbeachae can be found in potting mixes, compost heaps andcomposted animal manures.
How Legionella longbeachae are spread is uncertain.The bacteria may be breathed in or spread from hand to mouth.Legionella longbeachae can remain on hands contaminated by handling pottingmix for periods of up to one hour and can be removed by washing.It cannot be spread person-to-person
To minimise the risk of infection when handling potting mix, gardeners should:
Wear a face mask 
Open bags with care to avoid inhalation of airborne potting mix
Moisten the contents to avoid creating dust
Always wear gloves to avoid transferring the potting mix from hand tomouth
Always wash hands after handling potting mix - even if gloves had beenworn
'It may be that the change in composition of composts in the UK, moving awayfrom peat based products, could be resulting in species such as Legionellalongbeachae being present in compost and therefore more cases of infectioncould occur.'
The findings are reported in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.
Last month health experts recommended putting warning labels on compost bags after a spate of Legonella longbeachae infections in Scotland.
Five people have been affected since the outbreak began in August.The latest victim was being treated in hospital in Dundee two weeks ago.

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