In today's modern times, when people in developed areas can simply reach into their refrigerator and immediately get a refreshing drink of clean, nourishing water, it's easy to take for granted that any water form you come into contact with will always be equally safe to use. 

However, if you're keen on safeguarding your own health and safety as well as those of your loved ones (and those of your tenants or customers, if you run a business or organisation that provides services or the use of facilities to the public), it's important to have measures for testing your water's quality in place. 

Scientists and health experts are finding that both open sources of water and those in more developed residential and commercial facilities all have the potential to harbour bacteria and organisms that can cause serious illnesses and even death to anyone who drinks or ingests the contaminated water through vapor and other forms.

By themselves, Legionella bacteria can already pose risks to human health as they can cause Legionnaire's disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. But it's also been found that many species of free-living amoebae or FLA are pathogenic, meaning they can cause infections, and that these can host other pathogens as well (including Legionella).

A study (published by the United States National Library of Medicine — National Institutes of Health) was conducted to determine the presence of pathogenic FLA and Legionella in different bodies of water in southern and central Taiwan (recreational hot springs, a river, and intake areas of treatment plans for drinking water). Water samples (140 in all) were tested for Legionella, Naegleria spp., Acanthamoeba spp., and Vermamoeba vermiformis. 

The study found that:

  • In hot spring water, FLA pathogenic genotypes (Acanthamoeba T4 and Naegleria australiensis) were abundant.
  • In various aquatic environments, Legionella was detected.
  • Among the assessed types of FLA, V. vermiformis was found to be the most likely to coexist with Legionella.
  • More attention should be paid to potential amoebae infections and legionellosis in drinking water sources and recreational hot pools. 

To ensure that water is safe for drinking and other uses, homeowners and owners or managers of establishments that cater to a large number of people (such as hospitals, care homes, spas, hotels, and other facilities) are advised to perform Legionella testing. There are kits that they can obtain to collect samples and send them off to a certified laboratory for analysis. The mere exposure to vapor that contains Legionella (or amoebae that host the bacteria) can put people at risk, so testing has never been more important than it is today.

+Duncan Hollis