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The term “clean breathing water” seems like nonsense, but clean water supplies are critical to avoiding water or mist-borne germs.

In December, 2018, one person died and another became ill due to Legionnaire’s disease in Hastings, Michigan.  While the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s was detected in the water supply of a local hospital, it is not clear the facility water supply was to blame.  What is apparent is the danger of inhaling contaminated mist or water droplets that carry the deadly bacterium.

The incident is just one in a series of Legionnaires’ cases that occurred throughout Michigan in 2018.  By July 1, the state had already experienced 135 cases of the disease, which is spread through the inhalation of aerosolized bacteria.  While bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ pneumonia is found in freshwater environments, it has become a modern problem associated with facility, recreational, and other devices that uses water that is not properly maintained.

How Aerosols Expose Us to Potentially Dangerous Bacteria

In a research study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, scientists from Arizona State University (ASU) and Drexel University evaluated how the aerosol spray from toilets and showers expose us to potentially dangerous bacteria.

ASU Assistant Professor Dr. Kerry Hamilton states, “Most people in the United States think we have a handle on our water quality problems and drinking water isn’t something we need to worry about anymore. If anything, the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and frequent Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks across the nation have demonstrated that’s not the case.”

The research motive was pretty straightforward—what could be risk factors for exposure to airborne germs?  Turns out we daily engage in activities that could put us at risk if our breathing water is laden with microbes.  Consider these findings, which were specific to exposure to Legionella pneumophilia bacteria—the microbe that causes Legionnaires’ disease:

  • Risk from contaminated mist is highest in the shower. This is not surprising, given the exposure time to water spray.  Water efficient fixtures that provide a less powerful, or more distributed spray, provided a spray that is less likely to be inhaled.
  • Inhalable bacteria is common in our day-to-day lives. From toilets, to humidifiers, to hot tubs and saunas, humans can be exposed to inhalable germs.  For older, younger, or immune compromised individuals, the dangers are greater.
  • Water efficient homes with designs where water tends to pool or stagnate over longer periods of time are more likely candidates for biofilms or bacterial colonies.

For hospitalized patients already facing the challenge of healing and recovery, inhalation of Legionnaires’ bacteria can mean a quick downward spiral.  Better water quality means safer breathing water—at home or in the hospital.

Malpractice Attorneys Help you and your Family in Baltimore and Washington, DC

If you are the victim of medical malpractice, the law firm of Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. can help.  Our law firm has a successful track record of negotiating or litigating appropriate compensation for patients injured by medical mistake.  Call 410-234-1000 or contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.