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Why test for Legionella?
The current Coronavirus pandemic has meant that many commercial premises have had to close over the past few weeks. Water systems left underused or not used at all for a short period of time can cause harm to the health of your staff, visitors and customers. Therefore, you need to test all water for human consumption and hygiene to ensure that it is safe and free of any contaminants before reopening.
All commercial businesses such as hotels, bars, restaurants, hairdressers, shops, crèches, gyms, GAA clubs and recreational clubs where the public use shower facilities and/or using water for hygiene purposes such as in hotel and restaurant kitchens should routinely test for Legionella and E-coli to demonstrate that bacteria counts are acceptable.
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 showerheads, whirlpool and hydrotherapy baths. Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease, but the elderly and those immunocompromised by chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk.
What causes Legionnaires ’ disease
Legionella is a bacterium responsible for causing Legionnaire’s Disease as well as many other respiratory problems. Legionella thrives in warm, stagnant water where temperatures are between 20-45°C and nutrients are available. Therefore, 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 to prevent Legionella growth
The primary method used to control the risk from Legionella is water temperature control. You should routinely clean and record the temperature of your water system. You should maintain the water 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. It would be best if you flushed out outlets, including showerheads and taps, weekly with regular cleaning and de-scaling of showerheads, spas and jacuzzis.