Health: Issues Preventing an Outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease

In September 2014, a street cleaning truck in Ripollet, Spain, was responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that resulted in 10 deaths throughout the region, through the aerosolization of Legionella-contaminated water by the truck’s brushes (http://afonsvalles.blogspot.com.es/2014/10/un-camion-de-limpieza-origen-...). Although this may sound like a unique and isolated incident, the spread of this disease, and others, through such unusual means is becoming increasingly more common. The potential risk for the waste industry is high and it may be only a matter of time before it too is involved in such an incident. Efforts are being made in the U.S. to provide guidance on Legionella monitoring and management by entities including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, among others. Although U.S. governmental agencies have not yet issued requirements, they are aware of the potential health risks. The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is currently considering adding it to its list of contaminants of concern, and OSHA and CDC have ample information and recommendations on their Web sites. The U.S. will likely follow the European Union, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted is making progress in governmental Legionella regulations.

By Diana Hulboy, Ph.D.

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