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

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports, click HERE

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One Response

  1. Pathogen risks may be evaluated through microbial risk assessment (MRA), a structured, systematic, science-based approach that builds on the chemical risk assessment paradigm; the MRA involves a) problem formulation (describing the hazards, risk setting, and pathways), b) exposure assessment of the hazard (ARB, ARG), c) dose–response assessment that quantifies the relationship between hazard dose and pARB infection in humans ( Figure 1 , processes 6 and 7), and d) combination of these procedures to characterize risk for the various pathways of exposure to pathogens identified to be assessed. An MRA is used qualitatively or quantitatively to evaluate the level of exposure and subsequent risk to human health from microbiological hazards. In the context of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, environmental MRA is in its infancy but is needed to address resistant bacteria and/or their determinants. The MRA was originally developed for fecal pathogen hazards in food and water [ ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute) 1996 ], with more recent modifications to include biofilm-associated environmental pathogens such as Legionella pneumophila ( Schoen and Ashbolt 2011 ). Some human pathogens can grow in the environment (and may become pARB; Figure 1 , processes 1 and 2), and many will infect only compromised individuals (generally termed opportunistic pathogens).

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