Ascaris blues & pile debate

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Ascaris blues & pile debate
Author: Lorax73
Monday, April 04, 2005 - 1:27 am
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Hello, hoping to get some input/reaction...

First, I am a big fan of "Humanure" book & method, and have built and am using saw-dust toilets inside and dumping them to humanure compost-heaps outside, per the book, for 2 years now. (spring 2003 to spring 2005).

Recently, I had (at least one) Human Roundworm / ascaris lumbricoides. I (and as precaution,my wife too) have been treated, and have learned its not that uncommon, but you can easily re-infect yourself if you are not careful. I don't know where I caught it - whether from my own pile (from another person additions and me not being totally careful), or from trips to communities / farms,etc in southern-Minn., central-Wisc, north carolina or nova scotia in last 1.5 years. But of course, now, I am wondering (and especially my wife is wondering) about our humanure pile. There have been repeated lively debates about it here at the house. So, wondering:

Infected pile?
1. What is best thing to do about the current pile ? (Pile #2 / '04-'05). Let it run its course, & heat up? (not sure what else there is to do). With the spring / april warm-up, the pile temps are just starting to rise. +126 at very top, frozen in middle and bottom. (see more info, below)

Not totally perfect pile location?
2. This Pile #2, and the previous Pile #1 I have maybe ten-yards from a creek that runs thru our property. My wife thinks this isn't great planning, and I agree. So I hope to put future piles father away. But much of the land around the house is pretty "low" & not far to the creek, especially in spring melt-time, making anywhere in land around house seem to be a similar situation. What do you think about "berming" up some small berm around the compost pile to catch "run-off". Does this make any sense / worthwhile?

Compost Testing?
3. Any suggestions on compost testing companies, to test for pathogens / ascaris? testing methods?
I'm emailing A&L Great Lakes Labs, that i found on the web - looked sort of like the place that would do it. but would be happy to hear suggestions.

Infected pile issues?
4. Should we be concerned about run-off / drainage of water from the current pile / that likely has ascaris? there is melting snow / some standing water around the pile... that one must tromp thru in boots if one wants to check the pile temperature, now, in the spring time. Concern?
Should we test the regular soil within a few feet of the pile itself? We should tell visitors about the pile & ascaris, yes? especially those with small kids? (as an aside, i made the pile awful tall this year, its "pyramid"-ing up 2 ft. tall - above/from the tops of the pallet-side-walls.)

Use of existing piles?
5. So I have two humanure piles, the '03-'04 (old one,#1) that is just finishing up its year of aging, and the '04-'05 (current pile,#2) that is likely to have ascaris in it & is doing its spring heat up. Would suggested use for both piles be as just used as berry-plant soil and tree soil? or not used as all? or age an extra 3rd year? or ???

Author: admin
Monday, April 04, 2005 - 10:13 am
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How long have you had the Ascaris infection? You may have had it for years before starting the humanure composting. I know people who have had Ascaris who never composted anything in their life, and probably that is the case with the vast majority of infected persons. It would seem, based on the information in the Humanure Handbook, that composting your humanure would be the best thing you could do with it, if for no other reason than *because* of your previous infection.

I would allow the compost to do its thing and then age adequately, then have samples of the finished compost (aged at least a year) tested at a lab to see if there are any Ascaris indicators. This is a good opportunity to gain some actual data in the field, since you know you had an infection and you also have been composting.

You should not have leachate run-off, but if you see pooling around the base of the compost pile, cover it with a heavy layer of organic material such as straw and walk on that. Keep people out of the compost until you have been able to run some tests on it. And use the earlier compost for horticultural purposes rather than in your food garden.

And I wouldn't bring your previous condition to the attention of people unnecessarily unless you want to be treated like a Leper. Here are two labs:

Woods End Agricultural Institute, Inc. ó PO Box 297, Mt. Vernon, ME 04352 USA; Ph: 207-293-2457 or 800 451 0337; FAX: 207-293-2488; email: compost@woodsend.org; website: woodsend.org; Ascaris and coliform testing as well as full nutrient tests.


Control Lab, Inc. ó 42 Hangar Way, Watsonville, CA 95076 USA; Ph: 831-724-5422; Fax: 831-724-3188

Author: hmmm
Monday, April 04, 2005 - 6:12 pm
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The question I think, is not if he GOT the ascaris from the humanure process (could have come from anywhere), but what do to about future reinfection possibilities.

This could be a concern both for him and for visitors, don't you think? I realize the "leper" potential, but shouldn't people who eat your produce and hang out in your yard (good friends, etc) be entitled to know that there is potentially infectious stuff around? Ie I would never think of checking for parasites in my own kids, unless I had reason to believe they had been exposed...

Author: hmmm again
Monday, April 04, 2005 - 6:14 pm
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I should add that I don't believe Humanure is potentially infections per say, just the fact that there was a known infected person contributing to the pile, and wouldn't it be "infectious" before it had a chance to heat up and do it's thing?

Author: admin
Tuesday, April 05, 2005 - 12:01 pm
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I think you're missing the point of humanure composting - that point being to render pathogens non-infectious. The implication that *if* pathogenic material goes into a humanure compost pile, *then* humanure compost and everything around it is therefore infectious, is incorrect. This can lead to the irrational hysteria that would brand these people as lepers. I had a similar issue when one of my kids got pinworms many years ago (tramsmitted only by direct contact with another human being, not through soil or compost). Suddenly, the rumor started passing around that it came from our compost. People tend to be ignorant and will latch onto any small piece of misinformation and then amplify that misinformation, starting a process that breeds upon itself.

I realize that Ascaris is quite different from pinworms and that the eggs can reside in the soil for some time. However, they also die rapidly in compost, ceasing to develop altogether above 98.6 degrees F (maybe it's time to reread the Humanure Handbook). Here is more information:

Roundworms

Roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides) are fairly large worms (10 inches in length) which parasitize the human host by eating semi-digested food in the small intestine. The females can lay 200,000 eggs per day for a lifetime total of 26 million or so. Larvae develop from the eggs in soil under favorable conditions (21C to 30C/69.8 F to 86F). Above 37C (98.6F), they cannot fully develop.

Approximately 900 million people are infected with roundworms worldwide, one million in the United States. The eggs are usually transmitted hand to mouth by people, usually children, who have come into contact with the eggs in their environment. Infected persons usually complain of a vague abdominal pain. Diagnosis is by stool analysis. An analysis of 400,000 stool samples throughout the U.S. by the Center for Disease Control found Ascaris in 2.3% of the samples, with a wide fluctuation in results depending on the geographical location of the person sampled. Puerto Rico had the highest positive sample frequency (9.3%), while samples from Wyoming, Arizona, and Nevada showed no incidence of Ascaris at all. In moist tropical climates, roundworm infection may afflict 50% of the population.

Eggs are destroyed by direct sunlight within 15 hours, and are killed by temperatures above 40C (104F), dying within an hour at 50C (122F). Roundworm eggs are resistant to freezing temperatures, chemical disinfectants, and other strong chemicals, but thermophilic composting will kill them.

Roundworms, like hookworms and whipworms, are spread by fecal contamination of soil. Much of this contamination is caused and spread by children who defecate outdoors within their living area. One sure way to eradicate fecal pathogens is to conscientiously collect and thermophilically compost all fecal material. Therefore, it is very important when composting humanure to be certain that all children use the toilet facility and do not defecate elsewhere. When changing soiled diapers, scrape the fecal material into a humanure toilet with toilet paper or another biodegradable material. Itís up to adults to keep an eye on kids and make sure they understand the importance of always using a toilet facility.

Fecal environmental contamination can also be caused by using raw fecal material for agricultural purposes. Proper thermophilic composting of all fecal material is essential for the eradication of fecal pathogens.

And donít forget to wash your hands before eating!

Joe Jenkins

Author: admin
Tuesday, April 05, 2005 - 12:04 pm
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PS: The rational approach is to have the first compost pile tested when it's finished aging, which should be soon, as I understand it. A sampling should be taken from various areas of the pile, internal and external, top and bottom, mixed together and sent to the lab. Let's see what the results are before we jump to any further conslusions.

Author: Lorax73
Tuesday, April 05, 2005 - 5:12 pm
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Hello again,
Thanks for all the sound advice and discussion. Reflecting on the timing and where I have been, it seems pretty likely to me..that I caught the Roundworm while traveling, possibly/likely in North Carolina 1.5 years ago. I heard the southeast / warmer climates it more prevelant. My hygiene hasn't always been top notch, perhaps especially on this or similar trips in locations where infection was more likely.
Also, its quite likely that I only discovered the Roundworm *because* I was doing the sawdust toilet / humanure method. I think I am more likely to see my own poop in sawdust toilet, so actually saw the Roundworm.
I do believe in the Humanure method and its ability to deal with parasites. Certainly I will test the older pile, and eventually the newer pile (after it heats up / ages, as suggested). And be better with washing hands.
As to telling people, I will tell people that might be spending more time on the land / have little kids / are folks I consider reasonable. Less reasonable folks probably won't be around my place that much, probably aren't willing to use sawdust toilets, and probably won't be told.
I think taking precautions, being careful, testing, hygiene, continueing to compost and simply time passing will likely help this situation pass. Thanks again, all.
Once I test and get a report..I'll post again, here.

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