Giuseppe ‘Beppi’ Trentin, 79, died in hospital earlier this week after contracting Legionnaire’s disease, which is believed to have occurred after being exposed to legionella bacteria in a bag of potting mix.
The man’s son, Renato Trentin, told 7News that his father developed a fever and fell gravely ill after opening a bag of potting mix for his wife only days before.
“An ambulance came and within a couple of hours they confirmed he had pneumonia – but they weren’t sure what pneumonia it was,” Renato said.
“Because it’s such a severe infection, his kidneys were already shutting down, and he was going into some sort of septic shock.”
Soon after, Mr Trentin was moved into intensive care and placed in an induced coma.
Mt Trentin’s family were unaware of the potential for legionella bacteria to be found in potting mix and hope that their tragedy could potentially save other families from making the same mistake.
“I’m sharing my dad’s story because this is preventable,” Renato said.
“If my mum heard [these] interviews that day or the day before, I can tell you my dad would still be here because she would’ve made sure my dad had the precautions.”
In a statement to 7NEWS.com.au, a Department of Health spokesperson said while potting mix may seem harmless “it can be dangerous unless the correct procedures are followed”.
“Most people who breathe in the bacteria do not become ill. The risk of disease is increased with age, smoking, and in people with weakened immune systems,” the spokesperson said.
The bacteria can be found in tiny quantities in the general environment and do not pose a health hazzard, however, the ingredients and dampness of potting mix make it the ideal breeding ground.
Early symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, shortness of breath or muscle aches begin to appear six days after exposure.
Gardeners are advised to wear a mask and gloves when handling soil, compost or potting mix, and wash their hands to minimise the risk of exposure.