February 19, 2022

Bird guano, is it hazardous? Absolutely all you need to know!

Bird droppings pose a particular health hazard when it comes to demolition and refurbishment of buildings.
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Guano is accumulated excrement and remains of birds, bats, and seals. Guano goes by many different names and regardless of what you call them, moniker of droppings, mess or maybe poo, what really does matter is that guano is highly toxic and even in small amounts can be harmful to human health. In the UK derelict buildings provide the ideal roosting ground for birds, especially pigeons and sea gulls.

Bird droppings pose a particular health hazard when it comes to demolition and refurbishment of buildings. When these microscopic spores from the dried bat guano are inhaled by humans, they can cause a serious respiratory disease called histoplasmosis.

The ideal approach to bird mess is to remove the source of the problem by utilising many of the bird deterrent solutions that are available, which will include the likes of bird spikes and acoustic deterrents, however bird guano can still cause a tremendous problem.

Diseases associated with guano?

Guano, how bad does it need to be?


Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a fungus called Histoplasma. The fungus lives in the environment, particularly in soil that contains large amounts of bird or bat droppings.

In most cases, histoplasmosis causes mild flu-like symptoms that appear between 3 and 17 days after exposure to the fungus. These symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, cough and chest discomfort.


Psittacosis is an infection of birds caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci.

The disease has been described in many species of birds, particularly in parrots, parakeets, budgerigars and cockatiels. Other commonly affected birds include pigeons and doves. Ducks and turkeys may also be affected, but chickens less frequently. Psittacosis is an acute respiratory disease with an incubation period of between 1 and 4 weeks.

It typically causes flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, muscle aches) but can lead to severe pneumonia and non-respiratory health problems.


Salmonella is also present in some bird droppings, more commonly referred to as food poisoning, salmonellosis can be traced back to bird guano. It is a bacterial infection that can cause significant diarrhoea. The disease bacteria are found in bird droppings; dust from droppings can be sucked through ventilators and air conditioners, contaminating food and cooking surfaces in restaurants, homes and food processing plants.

While it’s not usually fatal, typical symptoms of the disease include diarrhoea, fever, and abdominal pain. These usually occur within 8 to 72 hours of being exposed to the pathogen and could last for several days.

Guano in the built environment…

Guano. Externally of a recent survey.

Certain job roles will leave you more likely to be exposed to harmful bird guano than in others, if your work is outside for example then the risk may be greater, than if you are cleaning guano at home. If you work in buildings undertaking refurbishments you are more likely to come across and disturb guano, you need to assess the risks and implement controls to minimise the disturbance.

Working safely with guano?

It is important to take a few steps before you begin any cleaning process. Ensure that you make, update and ensure a risk assessment is appropriate of the dangers posed. If you provide refurbishment, building maintenance or demolition work of old buildings these can be higher risk sites of airborne particles. In the same way in your own home, there may be a lower density of particles, but this is an area where you also sleep and eat.

Guano. Internally of a recent survey.

It is vital to ensure that if significant levels of bird droppings are present, that those who have weakened immune symptoms including individuals with autoimmune diseases are protected from the risks posed by bird guano, as they may have a higher risk of contracting the afore mentioned diseases. It might sound obvious but try to limit contact with bird droppings and time spent in areas where bird droppings are prevalent.

Plastic sheeting can provide a moderately effective interim measure against the risk of contamination by limiting the chances of the guano particles becoming airborne. In the same way gloves and even the most basic of masks, and goggles will offer you some personal protection.

Equipment needed for working with guano?

When cleaning guano, as with any other health contaminant it is essential to use the correct tools to both ensure that your work is effective and to also protect yourself.

  1. Disposable overalls that save you from the risk damaging your own clothes and spreading particles after a particularly messy guano cleaning session.
  2. To protect your eyes there are safety goggles.
  3. Latex or protective gloves to reduce the risk of transferring guano to other areas of your body.
  4. A P3 Mask or a disposable dusk mask provide you with a reasonable level of protection, A full face respirator will provide you with an additional level of protection and is highly recommended to those who come into frequent contact with guano, or for those who have a larger job to tackle. Please be aware that some of the respirators are only truly effective when a tight seal can be made against your skin, therefore it is advisable to be clean shaven when wearing a respirator.
  5. A range of removal tools such as scrapers for removal of hardened bird droppings or shovels for excessive quantities of guano, wire and soft brushes for different stages of the guano cleaning process.
  6. Cleaning solutions. Solutions to aid in the cleaning process, such as concentrated disinfectants that kill the harmful bacteria that can be found in guano are always worth considering as are powerful alkaline degreaser which aids in the removal of bird guano.
Guano. What tools and how to do it safely?

It is vital that you protect your face from infection, due to airborne particles or from touching your face which is something that we all do quite frequently and subconsciously. The contact of guano around your mouth, nose and eyes can be disastrous. With the right equipment to protect yourself, you want to ensure that you have the right tools to clean the guano safely and effectively.

For small amounts of guano, you may be able to deal with this by yourself. However, at some point you will need to call in the experts.

Why use Summit Environmental?

At Summit Environmental we are committed to providing advice relating to all elements of safe working with products that can be hazardous

to your health. If you would like further information about the harmful nature of bird guano, how to protect yourself or if you need professional removal, Please contact us at info@summitenvironmental.co.uk for guano removal, guano risk assessments and more advice on guano.

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