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Can Gardeners Catch Deadly Legionnaire’s Disease from Potting Soil?

EMSL boasts 5 laboratories nationwide that passed the prestigious CDC Legionella Testing Proficiency Program.


Most gardeners consider their hobby to be a healthy one, but they maybe unknowingly exposed to Legionnaire’s disease, a serious pneumonia that often has long term effects after the pneumonia has cleared.
Legionnaire’s disease can be caused by different species of Legionella bacteria Typically, the infection is caused by the inhalation of contaminated aerosolized water in air or from aspiration of contaminated water; it is not spread from person to person.
However, transmission of the disease through potting soil, compost, and organic fertilizer is closely associated with one species of Legionella in particular: Legionella longbeachae. Gardeners are at risk if they inhale Legionella longbeachae that were released into the air from aerosolized soil or if another species of Legionella bacteria enter the body through cuts in the skin. 
In recent years, it was reported that several people were hospitalized and/or died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease from contaminated potting soil. The people who are most vulnerable to the illness include people over 50, smokers, immunocompromised individuals, those with chronic lung disease, and people taking certain rheumatoid arthritis and chemotherapy drugs.
Gardeners should consider wearing gloves and a face mask when they handle soil, compost, organic fertilizer, or other similar products. In addition, they should wash their hands after gardening, so the Legionella does not infect them through a cut.
“EMSL Analytical offers the most sophisticated Legionella testing available and can implement a wide variety of validated methodologies to suit our clients’ needs,” states Diane Miskowski, MPH, Business Development Manager at EMSL Analytical. “In the analytical industry, EMSL has the highest number of Legionella testing laboratories that have passed the CDC Legionella Testing Proficiency Program.”
“We are very proud that the CDC has deemed our laboratories in Cinnaminson, NJ; Houston, TX; San Leandro, CA; and Manhattan proficient in Legionella testing. Our Toronto lab is also expected to complete the proficiency testing soon” she continued.

For more information about EMSL’s Legionella testing services, visit or, e-mail, or call 800-220-3675.

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a full service testing company providing quality lab services under the same private ownership since 1981. We provide analytical services for environmental, indoor air quality (IAQ), industrial hygiene, forensics and materials science, consumer products, food, PCR, pharmaceutical, asbestos, lead, and radiological samples.


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