Killer Mulch? . . . A Follow Up

\A couple of post back I wrote about a Gardener who was killed by mulch; more specifically a mold called Aspergillus. Which has generated quite the interest.

Topping that off I have received some interesting e-mail about Aspergillus, and some good information on the subject.

This information points to the fact that dying from Aspergillus mold is really extremely rare and very unlikely to happen to the landscape contractor or gardener.

Rather than me trying to paraphrase let me post the entire comment from Dr Graham Atherton who was kind enough to write a reply about mold and the unlikelyhood(is that a word???) of contracting the disease-let alone dying from Aspergillus:

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

I’d also like to thank Margaret for all her time and help in posting a comment and e-mailing me a lot of good follow-up information . . . thanks Margaret!

Bottom line . . . mulch away, but stay out of the old rotten wood, especially if you have some existing problem(s) like those stated above.

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.

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