Breaking news – Is composting a risky business?

Today the ‘compost and legionnaires disease’ story ‘broke’ on national BBC Radio2 news. We should really say resurfaced after some background work in Scotland onto an earlier case in 2010 was published:,Please keep in mind the risks are exceedingly small – there are an estimated 30m gardeners, 5m active composters, 1 billon bags of compost sold and just 3 cases over past 5 years with a potential link to gardening/compost.

There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria all around you every day in the atmosphere, on your food and in water. Legionnella is one of the bad guys found in water (rivers and lakes) and water droplets. We normally here about it from outbreaks in poorly maintained water systems where it grows when conditions are warm (20-30C) and stagnant. Below 20C is grows very slowly and above 40C, it is either ‘out competed’ by thermophilic bacteria (40-60C) or killed off by heat (eg hot water above >45C).

Life is never risk free – in our opinion this is a very rare risk present in any forms of water, is rare in composting and should be even rarer in a well maintained hot composting system.

You can find more background on legionnaires at NHS here:

P.S. We think the article title ‘wash off compost’ is hopelessly misleading – you can’t wash compost and as legionnella is water borne;  adding water is likely to make the situation worse!


1 Comment

Filed under Compost, Hot Composting, In the news

One response to “Breaking news – Is composting a risky business?

  1. Dominic

    As you rightly say, life has its risks and challenges. However, if we are sensible and take normal care, such as washing after gardening, then we should not be at any risk from bacterial infections. AND, with HotBinComposting, the very heat we are creating will kill those “bad” bacteria. I have composted for over 30 years and never, to my knowledge, suffered as I take normal, everyday hygene precautions. I love HotBinComposting for that, or many reasons. Thank you for your sensible reasoning of this matter, and for the product you have created LOL

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