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Health Risks of Composting Dump Sites   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Posted by Susan Lillard  
Friday, 10 August 2012

 Salem, OR


The Health Risks of Composting Dump Sites

Composting dump sites are very prevalent in our culture.  This is idea came from an Italian immigrant farmer in the 40's; and in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s large companies began utilizing this method, unbeknownst to what the repercussions might be. Odors from the composting, neighbors complained, polluted the area and create a health hazard. Others, who were notnear the sites and governmental agencies have been ignoring this issue.  Several years ago, I wrote an article on the health risks and it was rather strange that the Army Corps of Engineers hit that particular article several hundred time that day.  Obviously they are aware of it but the problems remain.

There has been recent interest in the thermophilic actinomycetes, particularly in those belonging to the genera Micropolyspora and Thermoactinomyces, because inhalation of their spores has been associated with the development of a hypersensitivity reaction manifested by recurrent chills, fever, or dyspnea, which may lead to irreversible pulmonary damage.  These organisms have been reported to proliferate in decaying organic material such as hay or mushroom compost where conditions for their growth are favorable because of the heat generated in the decomposing materials.

Recently it was reported the occurrence of a hypersensitivity pneumonitis resembling farmer's lung in which the source of the offending thermophile could be traced to a contaminated heating system in the patient's working environment. Although actinomycetes are ubiquitous in distribution and members of the genera Streptomyces and Micromonospora capable of growing below outdoors, no information is available about possible contamination of forced-air heating systems by thermophilic actinomycetes growing at higher temperatures. It was therefore decided to investigate whether these organisms also could be detected in heating systems of residential dwellings.  Testing determined they are present.

Thermophilic Actinomycetes (pronounced Thermo-Fil-lik AK-tin-o-myces) is basically a mold-covered bacteria that is web shaped and can travel through the air up to 2 miles. These invaders can permeate the lung; causing severe and permanent lung damage.  They are also very viralent. 

There are over 80 composting dump sites in the state of California alone.  We recommend you purchase an quality UV air purifier, particularly if you live in an area near a composting dump site.

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