Aspergillus kills English Gardener

How many of you in this industry are familiar with this?

Gardeners Warned After Wood Fungus Kills Man, 47

Friday, June 13, 2008

A 47-year-old man died while gardening after inhaling a mold known as Aspergillus, which grows on compost and decaying wood, BBC News reported Thursday.

The man, who lived in Buckinghamshire, England, was working with rotting wood and plant mulch in his garden in May 2007 when he developed severe breathing problems, a fever and muscle pain.

The incident is detailed in this week’s online edition of the medical journal The Lancet, with the headline “A Warning to Gardeners.”

X-rays showed his lungs were severely inflamed and doctors initially treated him with antibiotics, thinking it was pneumonia.

Later, tests determined he had inhaled Aspergillus, and he was given anti-fungal treatments, but it was too late.

Medical experts suggest using a face mask and said those who notice any breathing problems after gardening should seek medical attention immediately.

I’ve heard mention of Aspergillus, but not of the severity.

Is it a problem here in the U.S.? I am curious about this because I have dealt with a lot of mulch in my lifetime in this business, and have never had any problems, knock on wood.

I did a little checking and found the complete lowdown about Aspergillus mold at the Dr. Fungus website, that’s right Dr. Fungus.

I was unable to find anything about other deaths or problems, so if you’ve heard anything, pass it along.

This would not prevent me from using hardwood mulch-ever . . . . . however, it will make me look twice at a pile of “old” mulch or woodchips.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. Hi, I’m glad you brought this up.

    I realize that people worry about mold, but the short & sweet is that mold (viable, colony-forming fungal spores) are in the air indoors and outdoors.

    I know this because I work with an entire department of scientists who deal with indoor air quality. I would be happy to send you some articles, including from the CDC, on this topic. The kit form is though, that if you’re not “immuno-compromised” – that is, ill already with something that has weakened your immune system – you don’t need to worry. If you are worried anyway, go ahead and wear a mask, and/or ask your family doctor for some sensible precautionary measures.

    Thanks again for the info and the thoughts about this weird kind of way to die-working in the garden. Check your e-mail.

  2. Hi There

    i came across your concerns while doing my regular checks of news on Google. I run the Aspergillus Website ( which has an expert board on all aspects of aspergillus illnesses, including US and UK medical specialists. We are non-profit funded by charity here in the UK.

    This unfortunate death of an apparently healthy person – they had no known problems with their immune system – serves to outline the potential dangers of working with rotting material. Such cases are very rare unless the person has an illness that is damaging their immune system (i.e. the system that fights infection in healthy people). Anyone that is undergoing treatment that suppresses their immune system (eg some cancers, transplant patients, some diabetics) should avoid working with rotting material or disturbing the soil while their illness persists as both activities can release clouds of spores into the air.

    In this case the person involved seems to have had their immune system completely overwhelmed by breathing in huge quantities of spores which were than able to grow throughout their body with disastrous effect.

    It is apparent that even completely healthy people should show rotting material a lot of respect and to handle it carefully – avoid breathing in clouds of spores by opening bags of rotting compost away from your face for example. Working with compost on windy days may also help prevent clouds building up.

    Further questions? Go to our Q&A board at

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