Hey, did you ever do work in a church belfry? I did, and pigeon poop was everywhere! I mean when you walked (or crawled) it would kick up, the dry poop was everywhere. I wore a mask but I really didn’t think about how sick it can make you. So I wanted to share the hazards of bird poop with you so when you are working near piles and piles of it you know what to expect and how to protect yourself. Make sure you understand the hazards before you climb, it really helps. I was stupid but I would like to inform you of the possible risks.
Now I know most of you are working on tower tops, but I have had my share of bird poop on the tower s. In Maryland the Osprey would often build nests on the towers. There were also buzzards which seem to like the old AT&T microwave towers. There would be poop everywhere on those towers and on the dishes. Chances are good that you need to hold onto something while you are in the air, so you have to put your hand all through the bird poop. Make sure you wear gloves, I do. Don’t put your hands in your mouth (duh!) and don’t drink your water while near the poop if possible. Don’t ingest any of that crap! Also, when you get down, make clean up a priority! Wash, Purell, do whatever it takes to get it off of you. Brush your clothing off. You don’t want to breathe that stuff all the way home or back to the hotel room.
If you are working rooftops, or worse, in a church roof or in a confined area on a roof, make sure you wear a mask. Look around for the hazardous poop. It could be bird or bat poop and you should be able to see it if you have enough light but to be safe make sure that you are prepared. I know it sucks to wear a mask for any length of time, but you don’t want to get sick. You need to think about your health long-term. It is smart to protect yourself, although short-term it may not be so bad you never know what allergies you may have. Old buildings are the worst places for this kind of hazard. They are teaming with not only bird poop but also rat droppings and maybe insects that can bite you, but let’s just stay with poop for this discussion.
So, bird and bat poop is easier to clean while it is dry, but the dust could get in your lungs causing all kinds of problems, but if you wet it then it is messy and could stick to everything. So you need to find a balance if you are cleaning it. It also isn’t wise to use a normal vacuum because it may kick up more dust. Make sure you have a high-efficiency vacuum with a HEPA filter that will help keep the air clean, but even that could become an issue, so it would be best to do some research before you just clean up. Remember that getting it on your clothes will make it follow you wherever you go, so you need to be aware of that risk and make sure you either have protective clothing or a change of clothes.
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So, to go over PPE that would cover poop. Think about the masks you should wear. If the dust is thick then you may want to wear goggles that would protect your eyes. Maybe even coveralls to cover your clothes. Make sure you wear gloves. When you’re finished working, what it the first thing you should do? Change your clothes or remove your coveralls and then wash up. Hands, face, arms, head, anything that may have been exposed. If you want to drive back to your room first, be aware that it is in your truck. So you may have to clean that after you clean your clothing. How about that safety belt you were wearing, probably want to clean that the best you can to get all of the dust off of it. And do yourself a favor, throw away the old masks, how cheap are you? Clean the gloves and the coveralls the best you can, wash if possible. Use your common sense!
Risks include disease like many respiratory diseases, (bird Flu, Histoplasmosis, etc) or intestinal tract issues like candidiasis and E. Coli or diseases that attack the central nervous system with flu-like symptoms. They can also carry bed bugs, think about it, they get around and they are out in the wild, it only makes sense.
Here is a great site that goes over the hazards and how to clean up, http://www.wildlifedamagecontrol.net/birddroppings.php.
If you wonder what diseases you can get, go ahead and look at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/pigeons.shtml for information. New York City has a great website about the hazards or pigeon poop. Here are some of the diseases and their symptoms. I got this right from the site.
Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus, which grows in pigeon droppings. It also grows in soils and is found throughout the world. When cleaning droppings a person may breathe in some of the fungus, which in cases of high exposure can cause infection. Common activities, such as cleaning off windowsills, will not result in high exposures.
Symptoms of Histoplasmosis begin to appear about 10 days after initial infection and include fatigue, fever, and chest pains. Most people, however, do not show any symptoms. Those with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients or people living with HIV/AIDS are generally more at risk of developing Histoplasmosis. The disease cannot be transmitted from person to person.
Cryptococcosis is another fungal disease associated with pigeon droppings and also grows in soils throughout the world. It is very unlikely that healthy people will become infected even at high levels of exposure. A major risk factor for infection is a compromised immune system. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 85 percent of cryptococcosis patients are HIV-positive.
Psittacosis (also known as ornithosis or parrot fever) is a rare infectious disease that mainly affects parrots and parrot-like birds such as cockatiels, and parakeets, but may also affect other birds, such as pigeons. When bird droppings dry and become airborne people may inhale them and get sick.
In humans, this bacterial disease is characterized by: fatigue, fever, headache, rash, chills, and sometimes pneumonia. Symptoms develop about 10 days after exposure. Psittacosis can be treated with a common antibiotic.
Since 1996, fewer than 50 confirmed cases were reported in the United States annually. In New York City, psittacosis is very rare with less than one human case identified each year. According to the CDC, about 70% of infected people had contact with infected pet birds. Those at greatest risk include bird owners, pet shop employees, veterinarians, and people with compromised immune systems. No person-to-person cases have ever been reported.
If you would like more information about the hazardous bird poop, go to these sites for more.
Just remember, if you understand your risks, you can prepare for them accordingly and make a plan to avoid any short-term or long-term injuries. Remember, be careful, plan, and don’t be stupid!