Bird Droppings

Cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis infections typically occur by inhaling pathogenic spores through the nose and mouth. Therefore, bird droppings are most dangerous when they are dry and subject to becoming airborne as a fine dust, particularly when disturbed by sweeping or scraping. Although germicides could be applied to accumulated droppings prior to cleanup, their effectiveness is not proven. Safe cleanup is based on protection from spore inhalation and minimization of spore dispersal. Assume that a health hazard is present whenever bird and bat droppings are disturbed and observe the following precautions:

Small amounts of fresh droppings may be cleaned up by scraping or hosing with water, however, care must be taken when cleaning large areas or waste that dried. The following provides guidance for worker protection from infective organisms that may be found in bird droppings.

a. Protection of workers from infective organisms

  1. Preliminary Consultation. Prior to disturbing accumulated droppings, inform the Director of Environmental Management of the proposed activity. He may feel it is necessary to consult with local health officials for advice on personal safety measures such as protective clothing and the proper selection, use, and fitting of respirators.
  2. Breathing Protection. When working with accumulated droppings, wear a NIOSH-approved respirator with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters capable of excluding particles of 0.3 micron. Dust and particle masks will not provide adequate protection and are not approved for this use.
  3. Protective Clothing. Wear disposable coveralls, gloves, boots, and hats to protect personal clothing from contamination with infective organisms. Seal the glove/sleeve and boot/leg interfaces with duct tape before entering the worksite. Before leaving the work site, vacuum the protective coveralls, boots, and gloves using a HEPA vacuum, then walk to an excrement free area, remove the protective clothing, and place it in plastic bags prior to removing respiratory protection. Treat disposable clothing believed to be contaminated with disease agents as an infectious waste.
    1. Non-disposable work clothing and respirators should be removed, placed in a plastic bag, and sealed. These items must be disinfected in the bag before final cleaning and reuse. Workers must not wear their own personal street clothing under the disposable coveralls.
    2. If the disposable coveralls or other protective clothing are torn, the worker(s) must shower prior to putting on their street clothes. It is recommended that workers shower and thoroughly wash their hair at the end of their shift.

b. Waste removal procedures

  1. Application of Water. Although droppings are usually easier to clean up when they are dry and crusted, saturating them with water prior to removal is recommended to prevent the debris and any pathogens from becoming airborne. This should be done with a low-velocity mist spray. Using high pressure and/or a concentrated stream, such as from a hose nozzle, may scatter the droppings before they can be adequately wetted. However, hosing may be used for removing small amounts of recently deposited droppings from sidewalks and pavement. A portable, hand pressurized sprayer is satisfactory for applying limited amounts of water.
  2. Nonmetallic Tools. Only nonmetallic tools (such as plastic spatulas and brushes with natural fiber or nylon bristles) should be used on historic or sensitive structures to remove droppings. Do not use tools that can easily damage building surfaces, such as coarse wire brushes.

c. Public protection

Do not perform bird excrement removal in public areas without proper precautions. If possible, schedule the removal for weekends or other periods of minimum building or area use. Protect interior air by closing all heating and cooling system air intakes during the cleanup (shut down the entire system if possible). Unless droppings are inside the building itself, perform all work from the outside of the building. Provide barricades and signage to keep the public clear of the work site during all operations.

d. Disposal

Double bag the droppings and any associated soil in 3 mil or thicker plastic bags, close the bags securely, and place them in a cardboard container. Contact the Director of Environmental Management prior to placing them in a trash dumpster. If the droppings have been proven to contain Cryptococcus neoformans and/or Histoplasma capsulatum they will be incinerated through the bio-hazardous waste disposal company. Do not place the bags in a dumpster without first placing them in a cardboard box and do not leave them at a collection point for later pickup as they could be torn during handling and release their potentially infectious contents.