Legionella Risk Alarm!

The recent news of the last few months, concerning cases of Legionella in Italy in the provinces of Macerata, Brescia and Mantua reignite the spotlight on one of the major health problems, which unfortunately founds unprepared almost all the public facilities for managing and distributing drinking water at national level.

Legionella infection, which unfortunately affects the unaware victims, is transmitted only at the level of the respiratory tract, with very high mortality rates, so, the problem Legionella certainly can not be faced too lightly.

Legionella was identified and isolated for the first time in the late seventies, in the United States of America, when it infected more than 200 people gathered at a conference, with over 30 deaths. Legionella bacteria presents no health risk if swallowed while drinking, while if breathed, it directly affects the airways “in particular the lungs”, appearing as a strong pneumonia.

As mentioned, it is contracted by breathing inhaling the bacteria, the modus-operandi is extremely simple, just open a tap or simply a bottle, the water leaking produces a very fine mist almost invisible to the human eye, which determines the passage from water to air, contaminating directly anyone in the immediate vicinity.

Not effectively sanitized water is the perfect incubation environment for the Legionella bacteria, especially at temperatures between 25 °C and 42 °C. At lower temperatures the Legionella stays dormant, while at higher temperatures it can not survive.

The domestic environment, houses and recreational vehicles are the most subject to this type of contagion, the proliferation is much more accentuated in storage tanks, such as the external ones in direct contact with the environment or those connected to the thermal solar panels, and unfortunately in the public distribution networks, such as those of the aforementioned provinces that have caused the development and distribution of Legionella to the population due to bad or incorrect management.

Removing the Legionella bacteria is not a simple operation! Even if there are no guidelines imposed by the national health authorities “ASL-ARPA” concerning Legionella in public facilities, we at O3M by MAINO, we deem it necessary to advise all the “hotels-restaurants-bars-etc.” to seriously consider a correct prevention and prophylaxis, to avoid any type of proliferation and consequent uncontrolled emission in the air.

The same prevention measures should also be taken at a personal level at home, to ensure maximum safety for the family.

As already mentioned, drinking the infected water does not cause anything because the transmission of Legionella’s disease occurs only by air, by breathing it. It has been studied and found that the shower box is the greatest diffusion place in the air of Legionella, a space of limited dimensions where the water comes out sprayed from the shower-head in pressure, creating a thick fog of droplets and vapors. This situation facilitates the passage of the bacterium from water to air and the involuntary transmission to whoever is taking a shower.

Not knowing what is actually distributed by public networks, we must always expect the worst! So what to do? What is the best prevention system? Here below a small prevention and prophylaxis vademecum:

Please forget the so-called “do-it-yourself” solutions, the risk is too high and health is priceless. Our structure is at your disposal for any clarification, we invite you to contact us by writing to the following e-mail address: o3m@maino.it

Thinking to can solve the problem with the simple installation of a mesh filter or a polyethylene filter, it is something really silly; the so-called “mechanical” filters retain most of the impurities in suspension in the water, but not the bacteria!

Ozone is the perfect solution and “it does much more than just sanitize”! The amount of ozone needed to eliminate the Legionella bacteria is very low. For example, to sanitize the water needed for a family of 5 people, it is sufficient a small well-calibrated appliance coupled to a 100-liter reserve at a constant level, equipped with a withdrawal pump that pushes the water into the hydraulic circuit of the building. For the RV “campers, boats and caravans” the ozone generated by an appliance operating at 12V (the same voltage as the services battery) is injected into the tank of clear water.

Heating the water over 50 Celsius degrees is a solution, but unfortunately it is impractical, expensive and not always feasible. Water heating is an expensive operation! If water is too hot it is not good to drink “unless you only drink hot drinks”, furthermore it should be put into account the impossibility to take a nice refreshing shower as well!

Activated carbon filters may seem a good solution, but they are not! They also retain the chlorine residue, used as a guarantee of potability in the way from the aqueduct and the tap; so, once removed the only sanitizing element, the bacterium is free to circulate and proliferate undisturbed.

The osmosis system is an anti-bacterial guarantee, but beware! Two critical points are never explained by the installer, but they must be taken seriously into consideration! First, water does not quench thirst “we risk dehydration”, osmosis removes everything, even the mineral salts that allow the human body to absorb water, so before consumption that water must be remineralized with specific products at an additional cost. Second, the system releases all that it removes into the drain! If the drain has pipes or parts made of metal parts, these will be subjected to severe damage from passing corrosion, with subsequent leaks and consequent hydraulic repairs.

The UV rays too are advertised as a good system for bacteria destruction, but it is not really like that; first of all they work well working in symbiosis with another sanitation system “like ozone”, because alone they present questionable technical problems! Those that really work well are also expensive and their maintenance and spare parts needed in the medium to long term are another very important cost. Furthermore, if periodic maintenance “to be done weekly” is not constant and accurate, the UV system stops doing its job.