Water is sometimes taken for granted. We drink from the tap and turn on the shower without a second thought. But have you ever stopped to think that your water may not be as ‘clean’ as you imagined? This article aims to raise awareness of Legionella bacteria, which are hidden ‘lesser known’ killers that might lurk within your water system.
Legionella bacteria are found in natural water sources and they are invisible to the normal human eye. The bacterium can also proliferate in the majority of man-made water sources, including drinking taps, shower facilities, spa pools, cooling towers and many more. In fact, given the right conditions, Legionella bacteria can even grow in the windscreen washer reservoir of your car! This is why you are advised to mix your car washer fluid with some form of screen wash.
Although it is not pleasant to imagine bacteria in your cup of water, you cannot get ill from drinking, but you can catch diseases, such as Legionnaires’ (a form of fatal pneumonia), by inhaling tiny water droplets generated from any aerosol, mist or spray. Therefore, you are most at risk when you first turn on the tap or shower. Individuals that smoke or already have health issues are at higher risk, due to weaker immune systems.
What are the conditions for Legionella growth?
Like any bacteria, Legionella favours specific conditions. Stagnant water is most likely to be a target, which is why you should use and flush all your outlets regularly. In temperatures between 20-45°C, Legionella bacteria are most likely to thrive and multiply, especially if there is a source of nutrients available such as limescale. Regular descaling of shower heads is recommended.
How do I minimize the risks?
The advice above regarding flushing (at least weekly) of outlets not used regularly, and descaling shower heads, should be adhered to. Regular temperature monitoring of water systems is also recommended.
Please remember that if you have management responsibility for a building, you are responsible for ensuring risk assessments and regular Legionella checks.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this subject, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.