The importance of testing for legionella bacteria

scientist looking into laboratory microscope for signs of legionella bacteria

Routine testing of your water systems for legionella bacteria is crucial for safeguarding the health and well-being of the occupants on your premises. 

What is legionella bacteria? 

Legionella is a form of water-borne bacteria. It is usually found in freshwater environments such as ponds, rivers and other natural water sources. However, the bacteria can become a health concern when it grows and spreads in human-made water systems. 

Systems that are at risk of bacterial infection include atomisers, hot tubs, hot water tanks, heaters, cooling towers, shower heads, sink faucets and wet air conditioning plants. 

How does legionella bacteria grow?

Legionella growth in water systems can be caused by a range of internal and external factors. These include fluctuations in water quality, the buildup of limescale, changes in water temperature, and water stagnation. 

The bacteria will multiply when left to grow in conditions where the water temperature is between 20°C and 45°C. Any temperature below 20°C will leave the bacteria dormant and if the temperature is above 60°C it will be unable to survive. 

a close up image of legionella bacteria

Why is legionella testing important?

The accumulation of legionella bacteria in your water systems can have potentially catastrophic effects. The bacteria can lead to Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia that can have fatal consequences, especially for at-risk groups like those with compromised immune systems and the elderly. 

The disease spreads when people inhale the tiny water droplets in the air that contain legionella bacteria. Once the bacteria enters the human body, it makes its way to the lungs leading to infection. Legionella bacteria can also cause Pontiac fever in less at-risk groups, a mild flu-like illness with symptoms including fever and muscle aches.

Due to the potentially fatal consequences of not maintaining your water systems, the government has health and safety regulations in place. These regulations require businesses to appoint a professional to be responsible for controlling the risks associated with legionella bacteria and ensure appropriate assessments are carried out on a regular basis. 

According to a recent news report, a dangerous strain of legionella was discovered on board the Home Office’s Stockholm barge. More than 500 asylum seekers were to be accommodated at the “Bibby Stockholm,” but had to be immediately evacuated due to tests revealing that the water supply contained the deadliest strain of legionella pneumophila, Serogroup 1. This highlights the significance of legionella testing even more since a failure to conduct a test would have allowed the bacteria to spread and had potentially fatal repercussions on the residents. 

How Irrigonics can help

The good news is that breakouts of Legionnaires’ disease can be mitigated by correctly maintaining your water systems.

Our team takes pride in our expertise in legionella risk assessments. By collecting water samples and preparing a water system schematic, we will look for areas which could pose a legionella risk. We’ll examine your system’s maintenance and cleanliness, and offer suggestions for improvement along with a professional report that you can include in your hygiene records. More information about our legionella risk assessments is available here

Our assessment will also ensure your business is complying with the Health and Safety Commission’s Approved Code of Practice, ACOP L8

Contact us today to utilise our specialist water treatment solutions.

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