Media Release - 10/03/10
Since September last year, 21 people have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease after handling potting mix. Nine have been hospitalised this year and one person died.
Earlier this year, Dr Humphrey suggested masks should be sold with all bags of potting mix. Since then, he and other staff from Canterbury District Health Board’s Community and Public Health division have been working with the Nursery and Garden Industry Association to raise awareness of Legionnaires’ Disease among its members, many of whom are producers or retailers of potting mix. This has included ensuring warnings are clearly visible on all potting mix bags and that masks are available to garden centre employees and to the public when they buy potting mix.
At the same time the Department of Labour has been working with Canterbury retailers to ensure that people working with potting mix are appropriately protected and that bags of potting mix are not left out in the sun, which causes legionella to thrive.
Tui Garden Products have also agreed to include information from The Ministry of Health about safer gardening in their customer magazine – The Tui Times – which will be distributed in the Ellerslie International Flower Show “goody bags” this week."
“This has been a great effort from the gardening industry, the Ellerslie International Flower Show, the Department of Labour and Canterbury District Health Board to raise awareness of this issue both nationwide and in Canterbury, which has the highest proportion of gardeners per head of population in the country.
“We hope that with each agency spreading the word in this way, there will be a lot fewer people ending up in Christchurch Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit next summer. Certainly it seems to be having an effect already. Although a relatively high number of people become ill with Legionnaires’ over summer, only one person contracted the disease last month.”
Bags of potting mix should be carefully opened in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors, and away from the face. Dampening down the mix with gentle watering is advised. People should also wash their hands after handling potting mix and after gardening.
For more information, contact CDHB Communications Manager Michele Hider on 027 531 4796.