Dangers of Potting Mixes
If you are a person interested in gardening or a person handling the potting mixes, soil or compost regularly, you should be aware of the various dangers associated with it. If you do not take the necessary precautions you are at risk of developing serious illness.
Legionnaires’ disease caused by Legionella bacteria present in potting mixture, soil, mulch, compost is the most common among them. The symptoms of this condition are similar to that of pneumonia. In some people, the disease can be fatal. The less severe form of this disease causes respiratory infections or Pontiac fever.
On the top of the package where it can be clearly seen. If you cannot read the health warnings it says
This product contains Micro-organisms. Avoid breathing dust or mists. Wear particulate mask if dusty. Wear gloves and keep product moist when handling. Wash hands immediately after use.
Always read detailed warning labels on all products before you use them.
This is very good packaging from (Masters Home Improvements below) and potting mix clearly states the Health Warnings
The Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease
Though Legionella bacteria are present in almost all warm and damp environments, only some people who come in contact with it develops the disease. The early symptoms are similar to that of flu which includes
- Muscle aches
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
Apart from these common symptoms, some may develop stomach pain and diarrhoea. From the time of exposure to bacteria, it will take 2-12 days to show the symptoms. If not treated in the early stages, it can cause death. Pontiac fever starts within 5 hours to 3 days of exposure to the bacteria. This bacterium enters the body through the dust particles or the liquid droplets we breathe in.
Who are at Greater Risk?
The chance of developing the Legionellosis with exposure to bacteria increases if you are
- Above 50 years of age
- A smoker
- Chronically ill
- Having an impaired immune system
- Taking steroid drugs
It is possible to treat this pneumonia like disease using the right antibiotics. However, there are no preventive vaccines.
How to Handle Potting Mix?
You need to follow the following precautions in order to prevent contracting the disease from potting mix, soil etc.
- Store potting bags away from direct sunlight. When kept in direct sunlight, it can become the breeding ground for Legionella bacteria as the temperature in the die the bag will be about 20-400 C
- Use low pressure hose to water the garden and the compost to avoid the formation of airborne dust and water droplets.
- Open the potting mix bags slowly and make sure that the opening is not directed towards your face
- Wet the soil and potting mix before planting to reduce the dust
- While working with potting mixes in indoors or in greenhouses make sure that it is properly ventilated.
- Always cover up, wear gloves while handling the soil or potting mix.
- After handling the potting mixture, wash your hands properly.
- Use disposable respirators while opening and handling the potting mix.
This infection is not transferred from another person having the disease or from animals. If you think that you are infected by Legionella, immediately visits your medical practitioner. Your doctor may ask for blood, sputum and serum tests to do the diagnosis. Though this infection is not limited to gardeners or people handling the soil and potting mix, they are at greater risk of developing the disease.