“Up to 70% of all buildings greater than three stories in the US may be contaminated with legionella" stated Dr Victor Yu
According to Building Operating Management magazine,expert Victor Yu, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh; Chief, Infectious Disease Section, VA Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA disclosed that “Up to 70% of all buildings greater than three stories in the US may be contaminated with legionella.”
Legionnaires' disease are the two words that no facilities manager, risk manager or building operations manager wants to hear. Most everyone remembers about the haunting images of the 1976 American Legion Convention in Philadelphia at which 220 became ill and 30 died. No building owner wants the Legionella bacteria stigma associated with their building. Cases of Legionnaires' disease can wreak havoc by creating emergency evaluations, emergency disinfection, negative reputations, bad publicity, reduced property values, legal liability and potentially huge expense.
Legionnaires' disease (LEE-juh-nares) is caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella. The bacteria got its name in 1976, when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from an outbreak of this disease, a type of pneumonia (lung infection). Although this type of bacteria was around before1976, more illness from Legionnaires' disease is being detected now. This is because we are now looking for this disease whenever a patient has pneumonia.
Between 18,000 and 20,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires' disease in the U.S. alone each year. However, many infections are not diagnosed or reported, so this number may be higher. More illness is usually found in the summer and early fall, but it can happen any time of year. Legionnaires' disease can be very serious and can cause death in up to 5% to 30% of cases or 2400 to 5400 people will die each year as many as 16 deaths each day.
“These deaths can be prevented, just by taking small steps such as monitoring and testing of Legionella bacteria in and around their potential source of origin,” stated Dr. Rajiv R Sahay. Sources such as hot springs, hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings etc. require special attention. Infections in humans are noticed mostly after breathing a mist or vapor (small droplet of water in the air) contaminated with Legionella. Therefore, sampling in addition to source sampling is important in the prevention of Legionnaires’ disease.
Why a Legionella Standard: To respond to this growing threat to public health, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) will release ASHRAE Standard 188: Prevention of Legionellosis Associated with Building Water Systems in summer 2012. The new standard will require that facility managers implement stronger safeguards through pro-active risk assessment and risk management practices.
ASHRAE 188, was written by engineering, microbiology, disease prevention and water treatment experts, providing a comprehensive set of practices that facility managers can follow to help prevent Legionellosis. The standard specifies uniform practices for risk assessment and management. It covers potable water systems; cooling towers and evaporative condensers; whirlpool spas; decorative fountains; other water features; and aerosol-generating air coolers, humidifiers, and washers.
Under the new ASHRAE 188 standard, facility managers are charged with conducting an annual survey to determine what risk is present in their buildings. Specific risk factors called out in the standard include:
- Multiple housing units with one or more centralized water heaters
- More than 10 stories (including levels below grade)
- Cooling tower or evaporative condenser
- One or more whirlpools or spas within or adjacent to building
- Devices that release aerosols (e.g., ornamental fountains, misters, air washers or humidifiers)
- Incoming potable water containing less than 0.5 ppm residual halogen such as chlorine
- Inpatient health care facility
- Occupants primarily older than age 65
- Occupants receiving chemotherapy for cancer or bone marrow transplantation.
If a facility manager identifies the presence of one or more risk factors after conducting the survey, then a risk management team must be assembled to prepare and implement a HACCP plan to prevent the threat posed by Legionella bacteria.
Dr. Rajiv Sahay, director of laboratory services at Environmental Diagnostics laboratory (EDLab) stated that our “as a result of our AIHA accreditation as a environmental microbiology laboratory and CDC ELITE credentials our clients are assured of the Clients can be assured of highest accuracy scientifically and legally defensible data available.” Dr. Sahay further stated that “we look forward to continuing to work with many facilities staff in helping them build a strong proactive Legionella program in their facilities.”
How is Legionnaires’ disease diagnosed? Most people with Legionnaires’ disease will have pneumonia (lung infection) since the Legionella bacteria grow and thrive in the lungs. Pneumonia is confirmed either by chest x-ray or clinical diagnosis. Several laboratory tests can be used to detect the Legionella bacteria within the body. The most commonly used laboratory test for diagnosis is the urinary antigen test, which detects Legionella bacteria from a urine specimen, or sample. If the patient has pneumonia and the test is positive, then the patient is considered to have Legionnaires’ disease. Additionally, if the Legionella bacteria are cultured (isolated and grown on a special media) from a lung biopsy specimen, respiratory secretions, or various other sites, the diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease is also considered confirmed. Finally, paired sera (blood specimens) that show a specific increase in antibody levels when drawn shortly after illness and several weeks following recovery, can also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
For more information on developing a proactive Legionella testing program for your buildings call the Building Scientists at Pure Air Control Services or go to: Environmental Diagnostics laboratory (EDlab) Edlab.org, a CDC ELITE laboratory (contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay 1-800-422-7873 ext 303). DIY Legionella kits are available at: www.INDOORAIRTEST.com and other fine retailers.
About Pure Air Control Services, Inc.
Alan Wozniak founded Pure Air Control Services, Inc. in 1984 as a small mechanical contracting firm. Today, the firm sets the industry standard for indoor environmental quality diagnosis and remediation.
Pure Air’s nationally performed services include: Building Sciences Evaluation; Building Health Check; an AIHA accredited Environmental Microbiology Laboratory; Environmental Project Management; and Mold Remediation Services, among other indoor environmental services.
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