Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are Composts a Public Health Hazard?

Legionella bacteria found in compost products (University of Strathclyde, Oct. 1, 2013)

Also quoted here: Legionella spp. in UK composts – a potential public health issue (Abstract, Sandra L. Currie, Tara K. Beattie, Charles W. Knapp, Diane S. J. Lindsay, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Sep.3, 2013)

And here : Does compost really pose a threat to our health? (Lucy Siegle, The Observer, Oct.20, 2013)

Many people compost their organic garbage, thinking that this is good for the environment, produces rich soil for home gardens and extends the life of urban land-fills. Today we review a report from the UK which looked at the presence of Legionella in composts both store-bought and home-made. Almost 60% of the composts contained Legionella which can cause human disease. The good news is that infection from this is rare, especially if proper hygiene is followed – and it is recommended that compost packaging carry public  health warnings to this effect.

 compost heap  

Key Quotes:

 “This study delivers the first comprehensive survey of composts commonly available in the UK for the presence of Legionella species”

“Disease causing micro-organisms are widespread in the environment, and therefore it is not too surprising that species of Legionella that can cause human disease are present in compost. “

 “The occurrence of Legionella in over half of the samples tested indicates compost could pose a public health risk..”

“Within the UK and across Europe composts have traditionally been composed of peat, whereas sawdust and bark are more often used to produce compost in Australia and New Zealand where Legionellosis associated with compost is more common.”

“It should be emphasised though, that although Legionella seem to be common in compost, human infection is very rare, especially if you consider the volume of compost sold and used.”

“The addition of general hygiene warnings to compost package may be beneficial in protecting public health.”
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