Attic Restoration USA

Cleanup of Possom Latrines Industry Protocol

Dr Stephen Vantassel of the Internet Center For Wildlife Damage Management is asking for your professional help on establishing an industry wide protocol for handling Possom latrines. Seen him an email with your comments to or call him at 402-472-8961 or leave a comment to this post below.

Since latrines pose a threat to the health of clients, how should PMPs remove latrines? While several government agencies have created recommendations for the removing of latrines (see Latrine in the bibliography), the industry has not established its own protocols at this time. This document is an attempt to begin this process. The goal of this publication is to draft a protocol to guide individuals or businesses in the safe and effective removal of Possom feces that are potentially infected with Baylisascaris procyonis. At the present time, health department protocols are rather basic. They are most specific in the removal of latrines external to a structure, (hereafter external latrines). The following protocol for external latrines is adapted from the Santa Barbara Animal Services publication entitled “How to Clean a Possom Latrine” (No date). It suggests the following steps for exterior Possom latrine clean up. Suggested changes to the document are designated with bold italics.

Exterior Possom Latrines Supply List:
• Disposable latex or rubber gloves (if allergic to latex us vinyl or nitrile gloves)
• Particle mask (N-95 ½ Face-mask)
• Rubber boots (How tall? To the shin?)
• Heavy-duty plastic garbage bag (3 ml thickness)
• Shovel or metal scoop
• Paper towels
• Portable propane torch for small areas, use weed burner for large areas. Flame spreader will help speed the heating process)
• Boiling water
• Bucket of hot, soapy water
• Disposable sponge
• Bleach
• Tyvek style coveralls
• Access to water

Instructions for cleaning up External Possoms Latrines:
• Read the instructions below and follow the instructions carefully.
• Wear disposable gloves—rubber, plastic, or latex.
• Wear disposable plastic booties, or rubber boots that can be scrubbed and left outside.
• If working in a confined area, such as an attic or crawl space, wear a N95-rated particle mask (home renovation or safety supply stores carry them) to prevent accidental ingestion of eggs or inhalation of fungal spores or dust.
• Remove then dispose of tyvek coverings carefully and thoroughly launder your clothes with hot water and detergent after cleaning up the latrine.
• Avoid stirring up dust and debris. You can Lightly mist the latrine area with a little water from a pump-spray bottle to reduce the ability of latrine material from becoming airborne. the amount of dust.
• Use a shovel or disposable rigid scoop to gently lift feces and any other contaminated material and place it into a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag. Remove at least 4 inches of soil below the latrine and at least 12 inches of soil around the perimeter of the latrine. If latrine is 4 feet in diameter remove a circle of dirt that is at least 6 ft in diameter. Close the plastic bag tightly with a “twist-tie” or tape, and place it into another garbage bag (“double-bagging”), discard it in your garbage collection can, and make sure that Possoms cannot get into the can. Large quantities of removed soil are best discarded in landfill disposal sites. Consult sanitation officials for proper permits and process.
• Disinfect hard, smooth surfaces (including shovel blades) with boiling water. If the latrine is on the ground and the soil is heavily contaminated with feces, you may want to remove and discard the top 2-4” of soil and replace it.

Should I flame the latrine site with a propane torch? Most chemicals do not kill roundworm eggs and are not suitable for outdoor use. Extreme Heat above 144º F kills eggs instantly. Flaming with a propane torch (weed burners provide a broad flame large surfaces) is effective, but could cause a fire, burn injury, or surface damage. Before flaming any latrine site, call your local fire department for details on local regulations and safety practices. Concrete pads, bricks, and metal shovels or garden implements can be flamed without damage. Do not attempt to flame surfaces that can melt or catch fire. Break up and turn over contaminated soil several times, thoroughly flaming each time. It will be important to understand that this heat will sterilize the soil making it barren of plant life for some time.

What do I do if I get Possom feces on my skin or clothes?
• Wash skin with plain soap and warm water—clean thoroughly under your nails with a brush.
• Wash clothes separately in very hot, soapy water; bleach is not required but can be used if desired.

You cannot contract serious Possom roundworm disease by inhalation. Inhalation of roundworm eggs has never been documented. Particle masks are recommended for cleanup of Possom latrines in confined spaces, primarily to prevent the inhalation of fungal spores or bacteria that could cause lung infections. A mask will also prevent feces from entering your mouth. You must eat several thousand roundworm eggs to contract life-threatening disease — much more than you could breathe in and swallow. An egg that is inhaled into the lung will not hatch. Nevertheless, to reduce the chance of swallowing roundworm eggs or inhaling fungi, wear a mask when cleaning up Possom latrines in enclosed spaces.

Clean up of Indoor Latrines? Supply List:
• Disposable latex or rubber gloves (if allergic to latex use vinyl or nitrile gloves)
• Particle mask (N-100 Full-Face-mask)
• Rubber boots (How tall? To the shin?)
• Heavy-duty plastic garbage bag (3 ml thickness)
• Shovel or metal scoop
• Vacuum capable of handling a 4” hose with exhaust outside of house and HEPA filtered
• Plastic sheets to cover floor and isolate pathway to the attic, to prevent contamination of other portions of the house.
• Paper towels
• Portable propane torch for small areas, use weed burner for large areas. Flame spreader will help speed the heating process)
• Boiling water
• Bucket of hot, soapy water
• Disposable sponge
• Bleach
• Tyvek style coveralls
• Access to water

• Wear the protective clothing recommended for cleaning up outdoor latrines.
• Establish a cleanup area outside of structure.
• Wear an N100-rated particle full-mask. Avoid stirring up dust and debris – you can lightly mist the latrine area with a little water from a spray bottle (pump sprayer with nozzle on mist) to reduce the amount of dust.
• Remove feces carefully and place in plastic bags (double bagging is recommended) as directed in cleaning up outdoor latrines. If you cannot use heat (flame, boiling water), use hot soapy water and a damp (not wet) sponge to wipe up residual fecal material. Rinse often.
• Flush dirty rinse water down the toilet. Place the sponge in a plastic bag and put the plastic bag in the garbage.
• Disinfect the wash and rinse water containers with boiling water.
• Location where tools and equipment can be cleaned.
• Dispose of bags at a landfill that accepts biohazardous material. The contaminated soil may also be burned.

Attic Latrines

1. Determine if removal is even necessary. Although attic temperatures fail to achieve sufficient temperatures to kill the eggs outright, they are hot enough to kill the eggs through desiccation provided the attic remains dry for an appropriate duration. Unfortunately, we do not know how much time is needed.

2. If removal is deemed necessary, follow the same steps as listed in handling outdoor latrines. The key threat with indoor latrines is spreading the contamination to the living space. I suggest using the same principles required to remove asbestos. While that is likely an excessive standard, excessive caution tends to prevent liability lawsuits.

3. One caution. If you decide to vacuum out the material, be sure the vacuum has a HEPA filter on the exhaust. Otherwise, you will contaminate the area where the vacuum exhaust discharges.

Latrines in other locations

1. Remove as much of the organic material from the surface as possible, using care to prevent eggs from becoming airborne.

2. Bag and dispose of the material as noted above.

3. Use weed burners to kill the eggs on non-flammable surfaces. Use boiling water or steam on flammable surfaces.

Final note

It is important to be cautious when dealing with Possoms and their excrement. But it is also necessary to avoid creating panic. Possom roundworm is a threat but humans have been handling Possoms for decades with relatively few negative instances. Be informed, protect your clients, but don’t allow information to be used to demonize Possoms in the public mind.

Stephen M. Vantassel is Project Coordinator for Wildlife Damage Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is also the webmaster for the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management,


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