How to Prevent Legionnaires Disease in the Home
Legionnaires disease is a severe form of pneumonia that can be contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets containing the bacteria Legionella. Those at a higher risk of contracting the disease include the elderly, heavy drinkers, smokers and those with cancers, diabetes, lung or heart disease.
The Legionella bacteria can be found in water systems and natural fresh water. Therefore, the water in your home is at risk of carrying the bacteria. In fact, it’s normal for small amounts of Legionella to be found in water systems but when it reaches a certain level, it can become a serious issue.
Here are some tips to help you prevent Legionnaires disease in your home.
As a home owner or landlord, the first step is to assess the risk posed. If you are a landlord, you have a legal obligation to manage the risk of Legionella. You can do this yourself or you can use an external specialist.
The risk assessment involves having a complete understanding of the water systems, and the responsibilities you have as the owner. You should identify any potential risks and how you will go about managing the risks. This will include monitoring and maintaining the system, as well as recording the results and reviewing the risk assessment on a regular basis.
Maintain correct water temperatures
Water temperature control is one of the key ways to control the risk from Legionella as the bacteria cannot live above 60°C and is dormant below 20°C. Water should always be kept at temperatures that prevent the growth of bacteria:
- Cold water should be stored and distributed below 20°C
- Hot water should be kept at 60°C of higher
- Hot water should be distributed at 50° or higher
Regularly flush hot water pipes & tanks
To prevent water from stagnating, both pipes and water tanks should be washed out frequently, and especially in cases where the outlets are not being used often. With water tanks, if the water stored is not always used up fully, it can stagnate and this increases the chance of bacteria growth. Water tanks should be flushed and then cleaned with disinfectant. The same risk applies to water pipes. If some of your taps are not being used regularly, you should run them for 5-10 minutes as a precaution once per month.
Insulate pipes and tanks
Insulating hot and cold pipes and tanks properly can help keep the temperature of the water at the right level.
Clean shower heads regularly
Cleaning and de-scaling showerheads helps remove any bacteria build up. Clean showerheads and the outside of taps every few months at a minimum.
Water samples should be collected and analysed for Legionella bacteria to check that the level of bacteria is safe. The frequency of testing that is recommended depends on whether any risks are present. If there have been any changes to the water system or the temperature is not always maintained at the temperatures it should be, testing should be carried out as soon as possible. If the people using the water have an increased susceptibility to infection, it’s important to test more frequently. The easiest way to test water for Legionella is by using a water Testing Kit from Smartwater Testing. The kit includes full instructions as well as everything else you will need.