There's been some concern in the media over the past couple of days about the risks of contracting Legionnaire's disease from growing media (aka compost) bought from garden centres. This isn't new (I saw it first reported in 2008) or proven, but it's re-emerged recently owing to a report published last week in Eurosurveillance. It summarises three cases reported in Scotland in 2008/9 where inhaling the Legionella bacterium via water droplets from wet compost is thought to have been the cause.
Three cases in a couple of years suggests the risk for any of us catching the disease from our compost is extremely low. The most common way people catch it is via the air conditioning or water system in a major building such as an office or hospital. Note it's not contagious as it's transmitted via the inhalation of contaminated water droplets. However, if anyone's still concerned, you might like to have a look here on the NHS website.
What concerns me more is the presence of glass in my compost. I bought 5 bags last year to supplement my home made stuff and two of them contained glass. The picture shows the piece I found last October whilst planting up my winter pots: the coin alongside is a 5 pence piece. The one I found earlier in the year was about 3x larger. I garden without gloves as much as possible as I hate not being able to feel the soil, so luckily I saw this piece before it found me.
I believe the move towards reducing peat in our compost is the root cause of this problem. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an advocate of peat. Despite the drawbacks of using peat-free compost I've found and commented about (as Veep) recently, I still use it wherever I can because I think it's the right thing to do. I'm sure the use of composted green waste in most peat-free or reduced peat formulas is to blame. It seems not everyone is exacting about what goes where in their waste bins and it looks like the screening process of composted green waste isn't yet able to achieve a 100% glass (or indeed plastic) free material.
What's your experience - have you found glass or other non-compostable materials in your bags? Is there anything else which worries you about going peat-free, or have you found the perfect product to tell us about?