Processing Animal Products to Reduce Risk of Anthrax

Piles of animal hides at a leather tannery.

Animal hides can be treated to help reduce the risk of getting anthrax when handling them, but there is no way to completely get rid of anthrax spores on drums.

Because spores are able to withstand harsh conditions, any treatment methods used to kill the spores may damage the hides and reduce their quality for making drums and other products. Air drying of hides will not kill anthrax spores.

There are a number of methods for processing hides that can reduce the risk of getting anthrax.

These include:

  • Heating the hide to a temperature of 95°C for 24 hours, or boiling for 30 minutes, or steam autoclaving at 120°C for 20 minutes to kill anthrax spores
  • Tanning (using commercial or professional tanning and dehairing methods)
  • Chemically treating in acidic or alkaline solutions (soak in a solution with a pH less than 3.0 or more than 11.5 for 24 hours)
  • Preserving in 2% formaldehyde
  • Pickling with hypertonic salts

Other processing methods, such as irradiation before working with or processing hides, can also be effective. Your local department of commerce may be able to provide you with information to find commercial irradiation facilities close to you.