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Micro-organisms in mulches and composts can trigger pneumonia - watchdog

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Infection can occur by the inhalation of contaminated dust or water droplets or the ingestion of bacteria via dirty hands.

Infection can occur by the inhalation of contaminated dust or water droplets or the ingestion of bacteria via dirty hands.

Infection can occur by the inhalation of contaminated dust or water droplets or the ingestion of bacteria via dirty hands.

Compost, potting mix, mulches and composted green waste can be a source of community-acquired pneumonia.

Gardeners should bear in mind that compost and other soils can contain a large amount of micro-organisms (bacteria/bugs), according to Ireland's disease watchdog, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

While the risk of becoming unwell through gardening activities remains low, warm weather may lead to favourable conditions for bacteria growth in potting compost generally used in gardening.

Infection can then occur by the inhalation of contaminated dust or water droplets or the ingestion of bacteria via dirty hands. Tips to avoid infection include:

l Storing the potting compost in a cool place away from the sun to limit growth of bacteria

l Always follow the manufacturer's safety instructions on the bag

l Use a disposable dust mask to avoid breathing in dusts (particularly if working indoors)

l Wear gloves and wash your hands immediately after working with compost/potting mix

l Wear eye protection such as good quality sunglasses or goggles/safety glasses

l Open bags at arm's length, using a safety blade or sharp knife, in a well ventilated area/ ideally outdoors

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l Don't shake or stir the bag before opening it as this will produce dust particles which may be inhaled. Dampen contents of the bag carefully before use by spraying water into the bag - do this by making a small hole in the bag and inserting a garden hose to dampen potting mix/compost to avoid creating dust

l Keep doors open in greenhouses or sheds when potting plants or filling hanging baskets or do the work outside

l Clean up compost by sweeping while damp to reduce dust.


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