What is Legionella? – Legionella is a genus of pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria that includes the species L. pneumophila, causing legionellosis[3] (all illnesses caused by Legionella) including a pneumonia-type illness called Legionnaires’ disease and a mild flu-like illness called Pontiac fever

Is Legionella exposure dangerous? Yes, exposure to Legionella can be deadly: https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2020-04-24/buildings-closed-by-coronavirus-face-another-risk-legionnaires-disease

Symptoms of Legionella exposure can include but are not limited to

  • High temperature
  • Feverishness and chills
  • Cough
  • Muscle pains
  • Headache
  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhea and signs of mental confusion. 

How can you be exposed to Legionella? After Legionella grows and multiplies in a building water system, water containing Legionella then has to spread in droplets small enough for people to breathe in. People can get Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria. Legionella and other waterborne pathogens occur naturally in the environment, in bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and streams. Although municipalities treat their water with disinfectants like chlorine that can kill these pathogens, a number of factors may allow these pathogens to enter a building’s water distribution system.

Where does Legionella grow? Legionella grows best in water that is stagnant, warm (between 77 and 108 degrees fahrenheit) with organic matter, and lacking residual disinfectant (e.g., chlorine). The incubation period of 2-10 days (typically 3-6days). The presence of Legionella bacteria in water does not constitute a health risk; exposure to legionella must be through inhalation or aspiration of contaminated, aerosolized water, such as spraying, showering, running taps, etc. 

Causes and Common Sources of Infection from Legionella: 

  • Showerheads and sink faucets
  • Cooling towers (structures that contain water and a fan as part of centralized air cooling systems for building or industrial processes)
  • Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use
  • Decorative fountains and water features
  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems
  • Construction (including renovations and installing 

People at Increased Risk: 

  • People 50 years or older
  • Current or former smokers
  • People with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema)
  • People with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)
  • People with cancer
  • People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure

The CDC Requires Legionella testing when: 

  • Your building is a healthcare facility where patients stay overnight or does your building house or treat people who have chronic and acute medical problems or weakened immune systems
  • Your building primarily houses people older than 65 years (like a retirement home or assisted-living facility)
  • Your building has a centralized hot water system (like a hotel or high-rise apartment complex)
  • Your building has more than 10 stories (including basement levels)

BuildSafe recommends Quarterly Legionella testing to have a water management plan for both hot and cold water systems to ensure ongoing risk prevention and to make sure control practices are in place, including a routine maintenance schedule. 

What does a Legionella Inspection Consist of? Our inspection involves the identification of sampling critical control points with the highest potential for Legionella contamination. Water flow throughout the building is considered for sampling location, including hot water heaters, storage tanks, and secondary disinfectant devices where bacterial growth is common (such as Hot tubs or drinking fountains). 
If you have additional questions about Legionella or would like to schedule an inspection, contact us at 720-598-0601 or Contact@buildsafeenviro.com

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