In 2013, a health scare spread after the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center revealed that three cases (which resulted in one death) of the relatively rare Legionnaires’ disease were the result of exposure to Legionella from using ice machines. The news was quite troubling since most people know that the bacteria typically proliferates in water distribution systems that release hot to room-temperature water — so for these bacteria to breed in opposite conditions is rather unexpected.

So, how did this happen, considering that ice dispensers are not exactly where the Legionella bacteria usually breed? In a study conducted in 1985, it was determined that while ice dispensers are supplied with cold water, the condenser/compressor, however, warms the piping inside the machine, which then changes the temperature of the water to a level that is warm enough to support bacterial growth. This water is then made into ice and stunts the proliferation of the bacteria. But some of these bacteria can withstand the low temperature and proliferate the moment the ice melts.

The released report created greater awareness and heightened the need for regular Legionella testing for all water dispensing machines because while there’s effective treatment for the disease, it can be quite aggressive and quickly lead to a painful death. Therefore, prevention is still so much better than cure.

Currently, there are available water quality testing kits to be used to determine if Legionella bacteria are present in water distribution systems. They’re affordable, and what’s more, the use of these kits automatically throws in applicable information on what ought to be done for effective treatment. AquaCert, a supplier of these Legionella testing kits in the United Kingdom, provide advice on how to collect a sample of ice to check if an ice dispensing machine has the bacteria. Likewise, they offer guidance on eliminating the bacteria and also on future control and monitoring — all free of charge.

And speaking of eliminating the bacteria, those who want to be sure that their water distribution systems are safe from the Legionella bacteria have a solution which comes in the form of Shower Head Plus. This cleaning agent is also available through AquaCert and it has a proven efficacy against Legionella. The European Legionella Disinfection Test Standard (1995) for Legionella pneumophila Serogroup 1 (NTCC 11192) proved effective with just a 30-second contact time using a 1:3 dilution with water, and this product is already widely used by hotel groups, hospitals, care homes and the MOD. This product goes a long way and is a worthy investment to completely eliminate worries about exposure to harmful Legionella.


+Duncan Hollis