Compost bins near house
When a middle-aged man in England died in 2008 after inhaling dense clouds of compost dust, a German scientist told reporters: “Even just opening the lid of a bin containing organic waste can cause mold spores to be stirred up, which, if breathed in, can damage the lungs.”
An extreme case? Definitely. An overly cautious reaction? Probably not. Repeated exposure to mold spores heightens the risk of developing an allergy, experts say. Those with asthma or compromised immune systems are more susceptible.
When organic material decomposes, it becomes hot and moist, the ideal environment for fungi. Unprotected contact with compost can, most commonly, cause aspergillosis, the fungal infection that killed the British man; farmer’s lung, which resembles pneumonia; histoplasmosis, a lung infection; Legionnaire’s disease, a respiratory infection; paronychia, a painful tissue infection; or tetanus, a bacterial infection.
Keep compost bins at least partly uncovered, to allow air circulation, and wear a mask and gloves when turning. Don’t bring contaminated clothing into the house.
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