23 August 2014

Dirt Bucket Challange is a Bad Idea

Posted by John Freeland

Apparently, in the interest of saving water in drought-stricken California and calling attention to the crisis there, two men dumped dirt over their heads. This is a bad idea, in support of a good cause, in my view.

The video has gone viral and shows a dry-land adaptation of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Soil is not only where plants grow, but is also host to many kinds of bacteria and fungi, some of which can make people sick. A good summary of bacterial and fungal diseases found in soil is available at Soil-Related Bacterial and Fungal Infections, which I was able to view after opening the link in Firefox. An excerpt:

Coccidioidomycosis (“valley fever”) may represent up to 29% of community acquired pneumonia cases (150,000 annually) in endemic areas…Progressive disease may include respiratory failure, chronic pneumonia, and dissemination to other organs, including skin, bones/joints, and the central nervous system. Many infections are inapparent.

Coccidioides, a dimorphic (mycelium/spherule) fungus endemic to southwestern North America and portions of Central and South America, has been associated with alkaline, highly salinic, sandy soils and extremes of temperature. The ability to survive such harsh conditions may allow successful competition with other soil microorganisms.[52] Precipitation followed by high temperatures and drought promotes growth and arthroconidia formation. Wind or excavation then results in inhalation of arthroconidia (the “blow and grow hypothesis”), and pulmonary infection may occur

The ALS campaign for research leading to a cure and better treatment is a noble cause. Drawing attention to the water crisis in the western United States is admirable, as well. But, let’s not make ourselves sick in the process.