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How to Prevent Legionnaire’s Disease in Your Home

What is Legionnaire’s Disease?

Legionnaire’s Disease, or its less severe counterpart, Pontiac Fever, is a respiratory condition caused by breathing in the bacteria, Legionella.

Where Could it Be in Your Home?

Naturally found in freshwater, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionella can be harmful when it begins to grow and spread in places in your home such as:

-Showerheads and sink faucets

-Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use

-Hot water tanks and heaters

How to Prevent and Protect Your Family

Legionnaire’s Disease typically spreads by breathing in small particles of the bacteria.  For example, if it is present in your bathroom and you breathe in the damp steamy mist after a shower.  Here are some of the easiest ways to keep your home safe.

-Cleaning and disinfecting your bathroom on a regular basis.

First, make sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions in regard to cleaning bathroom fixtures.  Roto-rooter recommends using water and diluted bleach as well as spray disinfectants on other areas of the bathroom.

-Setting your water heater to the correct temperature. 

In the United States, we typically encourage water heaters to be set at a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent scald injuries.  This is particularly important if you live in a home with young children.  For killing the bacteria, Legionella, however, the water in your hot water tank should be set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is conflicting advice, and it can be hard to determine which is the right thing to do for your family.  Here’s one option that may help:

The American Society of Sanitary Engineering recommends setting the temperature of home water heaters to 135 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a range shown to destroy bacteria such as Legionella. At those temperatures, bacteria can neither thrive or survive to contaminate fixtures downstream from the heater. Adjusting a water heater to a higher temperature must always be accompanied by the installation of anti-scald devices in the home by a licensed plumber to prevent potential burn injuries, if such safeguards are not already present. (SFGate, Turning Up a Water Heater Up to Kill Bacteria by Gus Stephens)

If you notice any symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease and/or feel you may have been exposed, please seek medical attention.

Have any other questions about your residential plumbing system?  Contact us at FLAME Heating, Cooling, Plumbing, and Electrical!

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