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German report raises organic waste health concerns

Fresh concerns about lung damage and other allergic reactions that could be caused by organic waste bins have been raised following research by the German Lung Foundation into mould spores.

An examination of the effects of mould spores led it to warn that breathing in such spores could damage the lungs.

However, German Environment Agency biologist Regine Szewzyk said: When the organic waste bins were introduced in Germany there was the concern that fungi (and spore-forming bacteria like actinomycetes) would develop especially well in the organic waste leading to an increased spore release from these bins.

"Studies have been conducted on concentrations of fungi in the air when opening and closing mixed waste bins compared to organic waste bins. No significant differences in the concentration of fungi were detected and it was, therefore, concluded that the use of organic waste bins will not increase the hygienic risk of handling waste.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokeswoman said: Government policy on waste is and must be evidence-based, and we are interested in new research or evidence that comes to light.

"Defra research to date has found no evidence of significant public health hazards from household waste storage and collection. We will need to look at this report in more detail, but in the meantime it's important to remember that all waste should be handled sensibly. There are simple routine steps that everyone can take when dealing with waste - keeping bins clean, keeping bin lids closed, wrapping food waste and washing hands are all common sense precautions."

But Szewzyk added that caution should be exercised by vulnerable people: The high concentrations of fungi when handling organic waste might put sensitive people at risk. This is especially true for immuno-compromised patients (transplantation, chemotherapy) and people with fungi allergies. These people are advised to avoid contact with organic waste and other sources of fungal growth.


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