Common sense hygiene means you can compost safely
By: Steve Ott
The UK’s leading organic growing charity, is urging gardeners not to panic in the wake of the Legionella longbeachae compost scare in Scotland.
Garden Organic, which promotes home composting in the UK with a network of hundreds of Master Composters, warns that simple common sense measures should be enough to protect gardeners, adding that cases of contracting Legionella, particularly this strain, are extremely rare and unlikely.
Jane Griffiths, Head of Sustainable Waste at Garden Organic said, “Each year the UK uses many tens of thousands of bags of compost and thousands of tonnes of homemade compost. In the handful of cases of Legionella, very rarely has any link been found between the contracted illness and the compost used. The cases in Scotland are tragic, but we would urge gardeners to use common sense - good hygiene should be enough to remove any element of risk.”
“The most recent cases appear to be linked to bagged growing media rather than homemade compost, but consumers should take confidence in the fact that the commercial composting process heats compost to around 60C, whereas the Legionella bacteria prefers lower temperatures.”
The charity’s guidance suggests that those that are in good health should only need to take normal good hygiene measures when working with either bought or homemade compost. These include washing hands thoroughly after handling compost, covering cuts and grazes with plasters and ensuring that no pet faeces is used in home compost bins. Remaining vaccinated against tetanus is also important. For peace of mind, gardeners could also store bagged compost in the shade and avoid storing it in hot greenhouses. As with any bioaerosol emitting material there will always be risks to those with a poor or compromised immune system, who may wish to take additional measures.
For more information on composting visit www.homecomposting.org.uk
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