Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

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Between 28 March 2017 to 7 April 2017 approximately 880,000 litres of PFAS waste was received by NuGrow illegally. NuGrow transforms this waste into apparently nutrient rich and valuable compost and soil, which is sold for landscaping, parks and roadways.

"Overall, though, we need to keep these risks in perspective. Millions of people garden and all will be exposed to soil and/or potting mix. Very few of these infections occur in Australia and elsewhere. Fairly simple provisions such as washing hands, wearing gloves and – where necessary – wearing a mask will ensure rates of infection remain low." --Don’t worry, the chance of dying from potting mix is very slim (LINK)

Personally, I think there is more risk of infections  from untreated manures and home made composts. I note that most of the bags I've scrutinized do carry warnings of infection.

However:prevention is better than cure.

The WA Code of practice for Prevention of Legionnaires Disease makes the following recommendations for the safe handling of potting mix, soils and mulch:

  • Open potting mix bags with care to avoid inhaling airborne potting mix
  • Moisten the contents of the bag on opening by making a small opening and inserting a garden hose to dampen the potting mix
  • Avoid potting plants in unventilated areas, such as enclosed greenhouses
  • Protect Your Hands with a good pair of gardening gloves
  • Avoid transferring potting mix from hand to mouth, e.g. rubbing face with a soiled hand
  • Wear a face mask*
  • Always wash hands after handling potting mix, even if gloves have been worn, as Legionella bacteria can remain on hands contaminated by potting mix for up to one hour
  • Store potting mix in a cool place, away from the sun
  • Keep soils and potting mix damp
  • Avoid raising soil near evaporative coolers (Note(DR): research in South Australia suggested dripping hanging baskets can also pose a health risk).
  • Water gardens and composts gently, using a low pressure hose
  • When handling bulk quantities of potting mixes or other soil products, use procedures that minimise dust generation

Nonetheless, I would also assume that if you are constantly working with soil, compost and mulch --don't suffer from immuno-suppressant illness or without a long history of cigarette smoking --your own immune system will be on your side. Assuming, that is, if you glove up and wash your hands, use the material in open spaces, etc.

Surely some level of resistance is in play?

We recommend gardeners avoid breathing in compost or potting mix, by opening bags away from the face and keeping it close to the ground when moving it around. Also, always wash compost/potting mix off hands before putting them near the face." --LINK

Aside from my own health, this post gave me an excuse to explore school protocols as I do work with children and we are always trying to be aware of any gardening health risks. (LINK)

Potting mix is considered to be stable when stored under conditions recommended by the manufacturer. Potting mix should be stored in the closed, original container in a dry, cool (15 – 25C), well - ventilated area out of direct sunlight.  Potting mix bags kept in direct sunlight can reach temperatures within the bag that become ideal for rapid growth of Legionella bacteria .

The BIG picture of course is that gardening is an EXTREMeLY healthy activity that ticks so many 'medical' boxes and if you allow yourself to be victimized by the fear of soil --it has a name, Rupophobia -- you are indeed doing yourself a great damage despite the very slim risk of being contaminated.

We've had debates at the school about manures as I insisted on commercially composted manures, and we have developed an in-garden hand washing protocol. But since the children are not allowed to use tools(!) -- generally because we have so many Special Education Program kids in attendance-- it's a conundrum despite the hard yards we put into what we can and cannot reasonably grow (eg: peanuts) or ask the kids to do.

Kids should get 'dirty' ...and seed planting is also all about using soil mixes from bags...

Good warning Valerie for the those who are unaware.

As I am one of the ones (lung disease and over 50 and a keen gardener) that are prone to extra problems from inhaling bad things, I have to stay away from ill people and take preventative action when working with potting mix etc. 

Dave I fully agree and good info provided by you, I read a LINK 

There are so many dangerous things to be aware of It's a wonder I'm still here. No wonder there are so many people with anxiety today. The hoo ha about washing using anti bacterial products has led us to become our own worst enemies as we have helped the bacterial infective pathogens develop resistance to our wonder drugs.  Of course if you are sick and your natural defences are compromised then take every precaution that is deemed necessary. I always resist doctors giving me antibiotics for the same reason. I get my grandkids to play in the dirt as I did. We should treat all commercial advice with a healthy dose of scepticism, most companies these days are only covering their backsides in a legal sense (and hopefully a practical way too).

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