Explained in 60 Seconds – Why Legionella Testing Is More Important Than Ever For Businesses

legionella testing

Explained in 60 Seconds – Why Legionella Testing Is More Important Than Ever For Businesses

Why is Legionella Testing important now?

The current Coronavirus pandemic has meant that many commercial premises have had to close over the past few weeks. Water systems left underused or unused for a short period can cause harm to the health of your staff, visitors and customers. This is because legionella can build up in unused water pipes. Without performing legionella testing, businesses will not be able to determine their water supply’s safety. All water for human consumption and hygiene should be tested to ensure that the water is safe and free of contaminants before reopening.

All commercial businesses such as hotels, bars, restaurants, hairdressers, shops, crèches, gyms, GAA clubs & recreational clubs where the public use shower facilities and/or using water for hygiene purposes, such as in hotel and restaurant kitchens, should routinely perform E-coli and Legionella testing to demonstrate that bacteria counts are acceptable.


How Does Legionella Testing Work?

Legionella testing is a crucial process for assessing water sources and systems for the presence of Legionella bacteria, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia. The testing process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Sample Collection: A water sample is collected from a potential source of Legionella contamination. This source is often associated with water systems that can generate aerosols, such as cooling towers, hot water tanks, showers, or decorative fountains. The sampling procedure should follow established guidelines to ensure accurate and representative samples for the legionella test.

  2. Transport and Preservation: Once collected, the water sample is transported to a laboratory for analysis. It is crucial to handle and transport the sample appropriately to prevent contamination and preserve the integrity of the sample.

  3. Culturing: In the laboratory, the water sample is subjected to a culturing process. This involves placing the sample in a nutrient-rich medium that promotes the growth of Legionella bacteria if present. The culture is then incubated at an appropriate temperature.

  4. Identification: After incubation, microbiologists examine the culture for the presence of Legionella colonies. The identification process may involve various techniques, such as microscopy, serological tests, or genetic testing (polymerase chain reaction or PCR), to confirm the presence of Legionella bacteria and identify the specific species or strains.

  5. Quantification: The laboratory may also quantify the concentration of Legionella bacteria in the sample. This information helps assess the level of contamination and the potential health risk.

  6. Reporting: Once the analysis is complete, the laboratory provides a report detailing the test results. If Legionella bacteria are detected, the report may include information on the concentration and type of Legionella present.

Legionella testing is essential for assessing the safety of water systems, especially those in settings where people may be exposed to aerosols containing the bacteria. If Legionella is detected, appropriate control and remediation measures can be implemented to minimise the risk of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks. Regular testing and monitoring of water systems are essential for preventing and managing Legionella contamination.


What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal type of pneumonia, contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets from a contaminated source that has allowed the organism to grow and spread The most common form of contamination occurs in hot and cold water such as shower heads, whirlpools and hydrotherapy baths. Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease, but the elderly and those immunocompromised, including chronic respiratory or kidney disease, are at more risk.


What Causes Legionnaires ’ Disease?

Legionella is a bacterium responsible for causing Legionnaire’s Disease and many other respiratory problems. Legionella thrives in warm, stagnant water where temperatures are between 20-45°C and nutrients are available. Legionella typically exists at low concentrations in groundwater, lakes, and streams but can grow rapidly in water systems where temperatures are between 20-45°, including swimming pools, domestic water systems and showers, and whirlpool spas.


How Can Businesses Prevent Legionella Growth?

Water temperature control is the primary method used to control the risk of Legionella. Water systems should routinely be cleaned and temperatures recorded. Water should be operated at temperatures that prevent Legionella growth. For instance, hot water storage cylinders should store water at 60°C or higher, as Legionella do not survive above 60°C. Coldwater should be stored and distributed below 20°C, as Legionella is dormant at a temperature below 20°C. Stagnant water favours Legionella growth. Outlets, including showerheads and taps, should be flushed out at least weekly with regular cleaning and de-scaling of showerheads, spas and Jacuzzi.


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If you want to carry out legionella testing, you can order it on our website by clicking here.

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