Although we had extremely limited time in the lab this season, safety precautions were still taken. All team members have completed their Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) certification, as well as Campus Access Safety Training for COVID-19.
Even with safety concerns there are benefits to engineering pectin degrading enzymes in a lab. We have the ability to grow more than what would naturally occur in a compost pile, and we also eliminate some worry about bacterial outbreak.
As some team members started their own at-home composters we ensured safety precautions surrounding composting were talked about. If composts are not managed correctly problems can surface like smell, leachate, flies and rodents . If anaerobic respiration occurs, which is due to the compost not having enough oxygen, odor pollution can occur. This can lead to high symptom prevalence, like affective, gastrointestinal, head-related, cardiac, cognitive, neuromuscular, and musculoskeletal symptoms . Although there are risks to composting, when practicing proper care methods, the relative health risks are low.
When talking with Fabian Rohden, a member of the Lethbridge Collegiate team, he brought to our attention the possibility of dissemination, overuse and misuse of our system. For example, our pectin degrading enzymes could be used to destroy plants and things made out of wood that one may not want to be destroyed. Natural damage could also occur if our enzymes were to escape the intended target.
Tuladhar B and Spuhler D.(Co-) composting (Small-scale): Factsheet [Internet]. Sustainable Sanitation and Waste Management Toolbox. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 22]. Available from: https://sswm.info/sswm-solutions-bop-markets/affordable-wash-services-and-products/affordable-technologies-and/co-composting-small-scale.
 Zhu Y-L, Zheng G-D, Gao D, Chen T-B,Wu F-K, Niu M-J and Zou K-H. Odor composition analysis and odor indicator selection during sewage sludge composting. J Air Waste Manag Assoc [Internet]. 2016 May 18 [cited 2020 Oct 27]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5062037/.