What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia that is caused by bacteria growing in stagnant water. It is transmitted to humans when we breathe in small water droplets that contain the Legionella bacteria. Symptoms include cough, fever, headaches, and shortness of breath. It can result in lung failure and even death, so it should be taken extremely seriously. Poor plumbing conditions can allow Legionella to grow and fester, so you need to take steps to prevent this from happening.

How poor plumbing can cause Legionnaires’ disease

While Legionella is commonly found in large plumbing systems such as commercial cooling towers, it can also appear in residential plumbing systems. It can occur in hot tubs, fountains, water storage tanks, water heaters, sinks, tubs, and showerheads. If your plumbing system is not properly configured, water can be stagnant for long periods of time. This leads to Legionella growth. Similarly, homes that don’t properly maintain their plumbing systems are susceptible. Biofilm, a plaque-like substance consisting of different microorganisms, can build up around the interior of your pipes which feeds and protects the Legionella bacteria. This can then flake off and be transported throughout your water system.

How to prevent the bacteria from growing

Luckily, there are a few good ways to prevent the threat of Legionnaires’ disease. These include:

  • Sanitize the bathroom. Regularly clean your bathroom thoroughly with a diluted mixture of water and bleach. Pay special attention to sinks, tubs, and showerheads. Scrub down other surfaces such as countertops with a disinfectant spray.

  • Set the water heater to 140 degrees. Legionella can’t survive in a hot water heater if the temperature is set this high. Please note this can lead to scalding and is not recommended for homes with children. If you do have children or are otherwise worried about scalding, you can replace your faucets with specialized temperature-regulating models that lower the temperature of the water.

  • Use a water softener. Water softeners can minimize the buildup of sediment and biofilm in your pipes so that Legionella can’t grow. While helpful, this does not guarantee your pipes will be Legionella-free. Use in conjunction with other methods.

  • Minimize water stagnation. Flush seldomly used water fixtures regularly to prevent stagnation. If you suspect poor plumbing design could be an issue, have a plumbing professional inspect your system and make improvements, if necessary.

Bieg Plumbing is a family-owned business that has served the St. Louis area for nearly 60 years. We’re here to help whenever you have an issue. We can inspect your pipes for biofilm or other buildup and get them back in great condition. Contact us today to schedule any of our services.

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