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During the process of composting, is it dangerous for kids to play with? I mean to say is it okay if a child plays close to a compost heap or touches the material with their bare hands? I heard about bacteria living in the compost.

From the article Compost Pile Hazards by Nick Gromicko on nachi.org:

Compost can be a breeding ground for dangerous pathogens, some of which have killed or seriously harmed unsuspecting gardeners. Inspectors should familiarize themselves with these illnesses.

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There are bacteria in compost heaps; but bacteria are everywhere, including within and on our bodies. In fact, bacteria in a human being outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, but we need the bacteria to survive, so bacteria are not always bad. A child simply touching a compost bin is unlikely to come to harm, any more than they would by touching soil on the ground which, by the way, is also chockful of bacteria. I wouldn't recommend letting the child rummage around inside the compost bin because of their tendency to put their fingers in their mouths, plus what they might be breathing in whilst doing it, but just being close, or touching, the outside of a compost bin is no more harmful than anything else, assuming the usual handwashing routine is followed after playing outside, before eating. I'm assuming your compost bin does not contain flesh or bones though, merely the usual primarily vegetative mix of browns and greens.

  • Thanks a lot for your useful reply, in worst scenario as you said: if a child rummage around inside the compost heap and put fingers in mouths, what could happen? it is be dangerous for his health? – Xin Lok Jul 14 at 19:56
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    If the compost is very, very wet, and air temperatures are high, its possible Legionnaire's disease can be breathed in, but wet potting soil in bags carries the same risk; if rats are able to urinate in it, then Weil's disease as well as salmonella are a possibility; tetanus is possible if the child has a cut or wound already on their fingers or hands, especially from a thorn - this is also true of soil. So better not to let them play with the compost pile...but being near it or touching the bin is okay. – Bamboo Jul 14 at 20:08
  • Thanks a lot man, to be in the safe side better to cancel all this process. appreciate your help. – Xin Lok Jul 14 at 20:13
  • If I will be using just green grass and brown leaves, the risk will be the same? – Xin Lok Jul 15 at 19:55
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    Well it won't be well functioning compost pile if that's all you're going to use; itwill still contain bacteria, fungal spores and myriads of other micro organisms. I think you need to get this in perspective - whilst its possible for your child to get the serious infections, its rare, and that won't happen provided you do not allow your child to play with the contents of the heap, which should not be happening,. any more than you would allow your child to pick and eat anything he/she likes in the garden, given that over 50% of plants commonly grown in gardens are toxic if ingested. – Bamboo Jul 15 at 20:42
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Composting produces a few organisms, particularly a mold called Aspergillus fumigatus (see picture above), which can cause a variety of mostly respiratory diseases grouped under the title Aspergillosis. These can be actual infections, usually in the lungs, or allergic reactions which cause asthma, and they range from troublesome to deadly.

We share the world with a wide range of Aspergillus fungi. But Aspergillosis almost always results from exposure to A. fumigatus, which is ubiquitous not only in compost heaps but in the atmosphere. Aspergillosis usually attacks people whose health is already compromised. Especially at risk are people who have asthma, those whose lungs are pitted or scarred by previous diseases such as tuberculosis, and those who have seriously compromised immune systems such as AIDS patients.

There’s no reason to think that making SAFE compost is out of reach, to read more

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