Potting mix can pose risk to human health

We are alerting consumers to the risks of using potting mix after the tragic passing of a Christchurch gardener from Legionnaires’ disease (legionellosis).

28 January 2019

Lizzie Wilson, spokesperson for our Safer Homes Programme says: "Potting mix is a common gardening supply which is also sold as potting soil or potting compost.

"People need to follow the product’s instructions and labelling appropriately to keep themselves and family safe," says Ms Wilson.

"This tragic incident highlights the importance of using safety gear when using gardening products around the home, which in the case of potting mix should extend to wearing gloves and face protection.

"While we do not have a regulatory role in potting mix, through our Safer Homes Programme, we take action to promote, maintain and enhance consumer safety when using risky substances around the home," says Ms Wilson.

"We also encourage retailers and manufacturers to review their existing labelling and signage and look for other ways to reinforce their safety messaging to the public."

General gardening product safety information is available on the our website and a Safer and Healthier Gardening guide produced by the Ministry of Health is available through the HealthEd Portal.

Tips to take care while you garden Plus

Before you get to work in the garden, check the back of all the products you plan to use to see what you can do to keep yourself and others safe.

  • If you're working on plants that are for eating, check the label to see how long you need to wait before the plant or vegetable will be safe to eat. Write this down somewhere so you don’t forget.
  • Wear gloves, and check the label to see if you need other protection like a face mask or safety glasses.
  • Keep products away from your eyes and face, and off your skin.
  • Choose a calm day. Wind can blow products into your eyes and face, or onto other people.
  • Be very careful if you are working near streams or other water. Many garden products should not be used near water. Never pour leftover products down stormwater drains.
  • Ask your local your garden centre for advice and always read labels before you buy and use. Do not buy or use products that don’t have labels.
Some general safety tips to think about Plus
  • Seek advice to select the safest and most effective product for the job. You can make your home and garden safer by choosing products that are as gentle as possible. The staff at the store where you buy your products may be able to help with this.
  • Products that are labelled as ‘natural’, ‘organic’, and ‘environmentally friendly’ can still be hazardous.
  • You should always keep gardening products in their original packages or containers.