Health Risks of Composting

Two recent cases (1, 2) have illustrated that composting in the garden is potentially dangerous for some people.

In a recent article on this blog we discussed several groups that should be cautious when handling compost or any other material that is likely to rot e.g. bark chippings, dead leaves, grass cuttings and more:

  1. Asthmatics, especially severe fungally sensitive asthmatics (SAFS)
  2. Allergic BronchoPulmonary Aspergillosis sufferers (ABPA)
  3. Other people suffering from chronic pulmonary infection by fungi eg Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis (CPA)
  4. Immunocompromised people (Transplant patients, recipients of chemotherapy, people taking corticosteroids, people suffering from Chronic Granulomatous Disorder (CGD), Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetics)
These people should avoid all contact with risky materials and for that matter avoid any areas that encourage mould growth - essentially dark, damp places & buildings, even rotten food in a refrigerator.

If a person cannot avoid contact with mould then they should wear an adequate face mask. An ordinary woodworkers dust mask is useless as the spores are so tiny they would not be filtered out. As a minimum specification an N95 facemask is suitable - see facemask guidelines on the Aspergillus Website.