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Birds Could Bring List of Problems to Construction Sites

Mon August 25, 2008 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Birds are all around, at the park, at work, at schools and even at home; they have grown accustomed to the “urban environment.” And although they are an essential part of the eco-system, they do damage that is often overlooked.

According to the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), construction work was listed as an occupation that has a high exposure risk to H. capsulatum spores. Dust containing H. capsulatum spores can be aerolized during construction. The disease-causing fungus Histoplasma capsulatum can be breathed in, causing illness to construction workers who are active in the removal of bat or bird feces from buildings.

People who become infected usually experience mild symptoms, therefore not seeking medical attention and go on not realizing that they are carrying the fungus. Histoplasmosis usually affects a person’s lungs. Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chest pain, cough, headache or loss of appetite are the noticeable symptoms, but people tend to not link these symptoms to something like histoplamosis.

Construction workers do have an option. There are skin tests that can determine a person’s susceptibility to H. capsulatum. Experts also suggest that water sprays and dust suppression techniques should be used to reduce the amount of dust aerolized during construction. Construction equipment such as bulldozers, trucks and front-end loaders should have air filters to protect the operators. Trucks carrying dirt or debris from a work site should be covered and washed before leaving the site.

Although there are ways to prevent infection and information available to recognize symptoms, avoiding the birds or bats altogether is the best solution.

Bird Breakdown?

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., collapsed into the Mississippi River. The collapse resulted in 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries.

The department of transportation workers found that pigeon droppings obscured their ability to inspect the bridge. The Associated Press reported that experts believe that the droppings were a key factor in helping the bridge’s steel beam rust faster.

In America alone it has been estimated that the damage from birds costs cities tens of millions of dollars per year. According to Town Lake Construction LLC, it has been using bird abatement products to avoid damage and disease. Bird netting is one of the many products that it has found effective.

The owner of general construction firm Tischler Brothers said bird droppings affected multiple aspects of his business and tend to seriously degrade roofing materials.

Wood, metal and steel may erode faster due to the acidic properties of bird droppings left to fester over time. This can result in devaluation to property, construction sites, equipment and historic landmarks and can even be attributed to money loss and death.

Birds will nest just about anywhere that provides shelter and warmth including roofs, ceiling vents, wall vents, chimneys and soffits. Their nests can cause stains and structural damage. Bird feces corrode not only metal, but a number of building materials, including concrete, stone, tar shingles and brick.

Long Term Solutions

A long term effective solution is necessary to control pest infestation. There are products that are currently on the market that humanely deter and repel birds from infesting property. Humane solutions that make an area inhospitable make pests like birds, bats and rodents leave for good.

Taste aversions, which are applied to areas where birds feed is a popular tactic. The solution, which is not harmful to humans but is repulsive to the palate of birds, is mixed with water and is applied to grass, trees, crops and vegetation. Therefore the birds and/or pests are not harmed, but their taste buds are. Basically, when the food source goes, so will the pests.

Many property owners with more serious pest issues should try ultrasonic devices. An ultrasonic device uses sound waves that irritate birds, yet are silent to humans. They work well in semi-enclosed locations, like under a bridge, where the structure can reverberate and amplify the sound. There also are sonic devices available as well that use real alarm sounds made by pest birds and predator sounds of their mortal enemies that scare the pests away. These devices work for larger areas and can carry up to 6 acres. Multiple sounds and programmable settings allow the user to vary the bird-scaring soundtrack for optimum impact.

For more information, call Bird-X at 800/662-5021 or visit

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