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Legionnaires' Disease

What is Legionnaires' Disease?

Legionnaire's Disease is an illness caused by the Legionella bacteria, which provides symptoms similar to pneumonia and can be fatal.

 

The bacteria are found in the natural environment and may contaminate and grow in water systems, including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 - 45°C if the conditions are right. They are killed by high temperatures of 60°C or above.

How can people contract it?

Although the risk is low it is possible for people to contract Legionnaires' disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols) suspended in the air containing the bacteria. Certain conditions increase the risk from legionella if:

  • The water temperature in all or some parts of the system is between 20°C - 45°C, which is suitable for growth. 
  • It is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed, e.g. aerosol created by shower heads, water outlets, spa baths. 
  • Water is stored and/or re-circulated. 
  • There are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism, e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms. 
  • Outlets are used infrequently. 
  • The system contains dead ends or unused pipe work, e.g. hot water feed for cold fill only machine.

Your landlord should have had the property risk assessed for this issue however, whilst living in the property tenants also have a duty to carry out certain checks to help minimise the risks of this bacteria at the property.

 

How can the risk of Legionella be reduced?
The risk of Legionella causing illness in small domestic properties is exceedingly low, however, we urge you to carry out the following advice for your own protection. Prevention is better than cure.

 

Possibly the biggest risk is when you have been away from the property for more than a week or so, e.g. on holiday, or there are additional taps/showers/toilets that are not used daily. Good practice in this situation is simply to:

 

  • Run the hot water taps (a very unlikely source anyway) for a minimum of 60 seconds
  • Flush shower heads for a minimum of 60 seconds (to do this, remove from holder before turning on the shower, then hold down over plug hole to lessen risk of inhaling sprayed droplets).
  • Shower heads should be dismantled and cleaned of scale and debris every 3-6 months.
  • Keep the hot water on your boiler system at a temperature of minimum 50°C - 60°C. WARNING: BE AWARE OF SCALDING! 
  • Flush the toilet twice to circulate fresh water through the system and empty the cistern.

Periodic surveys:

During your tenancy a surveyor may visit to carry out a risk assessment. Just like gas safety checks this is to follow government regulations. You will be advised when these visits are due, and you don't need to take time off owrk to meet the surveyor, as he can use the management key if you are not home. If you are able to be there when he visits, great, but don't worry if not.

 

More information:

If you would like more information on Legionnella then please visit hse website, or contact us.

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