Legionnaires’ Disease and Occupational Exposure Risks to Legionella Bacteria
Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) are uniquely qualified to identify airborne hazards and exposure risks to help prevent the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Lansing, MI, August 26th, 2019 -- Last month the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) announced that its administration building at the Interstate 895/Baltimore Harbor Tunnel toll plaza would temporarily close and the toll booths would be automated as state and Baltimore City health officials assessed where two employees diagnosed with legionellosis may have contracted the illness. Several days after the declaration, MDTA reported the building and toll plaza were back to normal operations after health officials conducted a review of the facility, submitted environmental samples for testing, and treated water systems.
Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac Fever are collectively known as legionellosis, a disease caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. It can also inhabit and multiply in manmade water sources such as cooling towers, hot tubs, hot water tanks, plumbing systems, and even decorative fountains. Although most people exposed to Legionella do not become ill, others can become infected when they inhale small water droplets or mists containing it. People most at risk include the elderly, current or former smokers, anyone with chronic lung disease, and people with a weakened or suppressed immune system.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that improperly maintained water systems, such as domestic or industrial water systems or large HVAC systems, are among the leading sources of worker exposure to the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease,” said Dirk Yamamoto, PhD, CIH® and Chair of the Board for Global EHS Credentialing®. “This is why implementing an effective water management program to manage Legionella and prevent worker exposures is so significant. These programs identify areas where the bacteria could grow, determine where control measures are needed and how to monitor them, include response actions if control measures fail, and monitor and document water management activities. The importance of these programs and protecting workers and the public from exposure risks comes to light when people understand that there is a 10% death rate for those with Legionnaires’ disease according to the World Health Organization.”
One group of professionals on the frontlines helping to identify sources of Legionella bacteria are Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs). CIHs are trained to recognize and prevent exposure risks for workers and the public. Core competencies of the CIH® program that are critical for identifying these types of hazards and to prevent outbreaks include air sampling and instrumentational analysis; chemical and biohazards; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes.
About the Board for Global EHS Credentialing® (BGC®) and Its Credentials and Designations
Founded in 1960, the Board for Global EHS Credentialing’s mission is to be the leader in offering credentials that elevate the technical and ethical standards for professionals practicing the science of protecting, managing, and enhancing the health and safety of people and the environment. The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) and the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice® (IPEP®) are credentialing divisions of the BGC, offering the Certified Industrial Hygienist® (CIH®) credential, Qualified Environmental Professional® (QEP®) credential, and the Environmental Professional In-Training® (EPI®) designation.
Currently, more than 7,600 people around the world hold the CIH credential, QEP credential, or EPI designation. To locate a CIH to perform industrial hygiene services, please email a request to Info@EHSCredentialing.org. To learn more about a BGC credential or designation, please visit www.EHSCredentialing.org, email Info@EHSCredentialing.org or call (517) 321-2638.