Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

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Re: Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

Postby wyandottecaver » Jan 23, 2008 5:14 pm

As Hazel's post and the more recent issue of the NE bat mortality shows, cross-contamination *IS* an issue. The question is how big an issue. Let me first say that I rarely wash my outer suit and other gear until it exceeds all standards of social norms :big grin:

However, microorganisims can be both more fragile and more durable than you expect and I have no doubt that some species have been negatively impacted by the introduction of either new competitors or a change in the energy dynamics from the introduction of caver-borne "stuff". It is also possible that eggs from beetles and crickets can also be re-located by cavers so this isn't just a micro-bug discussion.

Also, contamination of wet systems is no less a concern, since the water could easily provide a very effecient method to widely distribute a new organisim throughout a drainage.

For me, it comes down to a ratio between how likely is a negative impact and how motivated I am to repeatedly clean gear. Am I visiting a cave with a known sensitive species or ecosystem? am I going in another nameless muddy tube? Being a biologist partial to bats If I were caving in the NE I would probably wear goodwill clothes and destroy them after each trip. For most caves most of the time I do nothing. I'm not saying that is a *proper* decision...just the one I make in the real vs academic world.
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Re: Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

Postby NZcaver » Jan 23, 2008 5:29 pm

For what it's worth, my more recent cleaning technique is to go to a coin-operated DIY car wash and spray my suit, boots, helmet, vertical gear, ropes, camera case, and any other grubby cave items I have. In light of the current situation, I will consider switching to hot soap high pressure wash mode followed by high pressure rinse mode - instead of just the high pressure rinse as before. More regular cleaning of the plastic tub which holds my caving gear will be added to the list too. I still intend to air dry everything.

I like my caving suit and gear too much to switch to using disposable clothes from Goodwill every trip... but that certainly is one option I guess.
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Re: Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

Postby MUD » Jan 24, 2008 12:56 am

NZcaver wrote:
Cavemud wrote:
NZcaver wrote:FYI - a warning about decontaminating your caving gear between trips just came up in the Fungus serious threat to NE bats topic.

:roll: :rofl:


My recent post wasn't intended to be funny. I thought it would be relevant to show the link between this old discussion and the recent news of a fungus which is spreading between caves and killing off bats in NY. That is all.

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Re: Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

Postby SpeleoRover » Jan 28, 2008 3:11 pm

Better safe than perpetually guilty, I say. I always clean up. In fact, the post trip gear stripping, cleaning, and reorganizing is somewhat therapeutic and keeps me in 'cave mode'.

Look... We either want to conserve the resource that brings us joy or not. Minimize impact. Wash it. Keep sharp. :cave softly:

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Re: Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

Postby nordicjw » Jan 30, 2008 6:36 pm

See Press releases from NY DEC and Vt ANR on Everthing Bats
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Re: Contamination of the cave from a dirty cave suit?

Postby mae » Jan 31, 2008 3:38 pm

This topic made me wonder if laundering actually kills microbes. Seems like it mostly just gets rid of the stuff you can see.

Edited to correct link.
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