Disinfecting with Quick Lime Poses Health Hazard

Lime (Quicklime, CaO) used to disinfect Poultry Houses poses health concerns – working with lime is extremely dangerous:

Producers should exhibit great care when using lime in poultry houses. Lime is caustic to organic matter and destroys debris in addition to pathogens. Lime also burns the footpads of birds if it is left on the ground or floor. It is important to take animals out of an area before treating the area with lime. Also, working with lime is extremely dangerous. Dust inhaled or exposed to the eyes can cause severe burning of the eyes and mucous membranes. When using lime, poultry producers should wear personal protective equipment. 1

Many widely used disinfectants are not active against bacterial spores, the environmentally resilient life form of the bacteria that cause tetanus, blackleg, botulism, January 2005 Cleaning and Disinfection 4 and anthrax. Formaldehyde is effective against most spores, but it is not really a practical disinfectant and is now considered a potential carcinogen or cancer-causing compound.

Lime (Quicklime, CaO): Lime is produced by burning limestone. If water is added to quicklime, slaked lime is produced. If lime is exposed to the air, air-slaked lime is formed. Lime is strongly alkaline, corrosive, and has been used to spread over carcasses before they are buried to destroy infected animal tissue due to its caustic action. However, current thought is that the lime may actually destroy the putrefying bacteria and hamper bacterial degradation of the carcass if placed directly on the carcass, especially under wet conditions. Lime is not used as much as a disinfectant anymore because there are safer and more effective products on the market. Lime is caustic to organic matter and will destroy debris, including pathogenic microorganisms. A major disadvantage to its use it that it is extremely hazardous to work with, causing severe burns on surface contact and may be explosive if lumps of lime come into contact with water. Dust inhaled or exposed to the eyes can cause severe burning of the eyes and mucous membranes. Personal protective equipment must be worn when using lime as a January 2005 Cleaning and Disinfection 11 disinfectant. It will also burn the footpads of animals if left on the ground or floor, and can also cause the hoofs of hoofed animals to dry and crack. 2

Lime (calcium oxide, quicklime) is one of the least expensive disinfectants and is reasonably good for use around livestock. Powdered lime may be scattered about yards or lots or swept over concrete floors for general disinfection. Since it tends to dry the skin and hoofs of animals, sometimes causing cracks that invite foot rot, avoid using excessive amounts of lime on concrete floors. 3


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1 Extension.org – Uses of lime in poultry houses
2 Aphis.usda.gov – Cleaning Procedures
3 Iowa Beef Center – Disinfectants and Disinfection