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Mark Hutchings

Sharon Camisa  and Iain Fraser were both victims of potting mix-associated Legionnaires’ disease in recent months.

Ms. Camisa, a 42-year-old woman in Australia, died as a result of her illness and now her father, Mark Hutchings, is calling for precautionary measures to prevent others from having a similarly devastating experience.  Mr. Hutchings does not seek to blame manufacturers or the health system; he does, however, want legislation to be introduced to require preventative measures such as attaching dust masks to bags of potting mix, or at least having stores sell them nearby.

Ms. Camisa spent weeks in a coma and ultimately died at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital; she is survived by her two children, husband, and grandchild.

Iain Fraser

61-year-old Iain Fraser, owner of the Elephant House coffee and tea room in Edinburgh where JK Rowling spent time writing the first part of the Harry Potter series, was hospitalized for over three weeks due to his Legionnaires’ disease.  His condition became so dire that doctors believed he would not survive and recommended that his children, living in New Zealand, fly in to be with their father.

The Elephant House

Mr. Fraser is now in recovery and, with the rise of Legionnaires’ disease cases rising in Scotland, is advocating for warning labels to be put onto bags of compost and potting mix.

“I was quite a fit 61-year-old, but I nearly died,” he said.  “I have two kids in New Zealand and my wife was told to get them over now because I might not see them again.  I’m not after publicity; I just want the warning labels.  I became very ill dealing with a bag of compost and I know there are five others.”

The warning labels that Mr. Fraser calls for are already seen in Australia and New Zealand where Legionella is more frequently seen in potting mix; however, the Scottish Government said they had no plans to acquiesce to Mr. Fraser’s plea.

A spokeswoman said: “The current British Institute of Standards guidance already requires manufacturers to provide generic information on safe handling and use of compost.  There are currently no plans to introduce specific warning labels on bags of compost.  Research has shown that specific labeling on this issue has little or no impact.”

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