BrodexTrident Blog

Legionella Watch: The Hidden Dangers Lurking in Our Bathrooms


Without wanting to put the frighteners on anyone unintentionally, it needs making public knowledge that we should never underestimate the risk of being exposed to legionella bacteria much closer to home than you might otherwise have imagined. While headlines typically inform us that the places in which we carry out our daily work duties, the hospitals we may need to visit, hotels we enjoy short breaks at, spa pools we indulge in and of late, even car washes, are all possible situations and locations we could, potentially become unwittingly sabotaged by the presence of legionella, the simple fact of the matter is that our very own homes could pose the most significant threat of all. And that’s primarily because there’s something which lies behind all of our closed doors which should come with a government health warning attached. Something we facilitate on a daily basis for the most part (although it’s when we don’t that underlying problems may also arise), and do so without giving the seemingly innocent process a second thought.

Yes, we’re referring to our bathrooms and in particular any assemblage which is responsible for producing a water spray. So essentially we’re talking about showers, spray taps in wash basins and baths and – more increasingly in recent years – domestic hot tubs and whirlpool baths. All of the above harbour the potential to unleash legionella bacteria on poor, unsuspecting victims (homeowners and tenants, to be precise); especially if and when said equipment isn’t subjected to some targeted housekeeping on a pretty regular basis. And that’s due in the main to the proliferation of airborne water droplets which become hosts for legionella bacterium which is actively dispersed via the spray. Showers in particular are perfect vessels by which to transpose the dormant bacteria from an otherwise innocuous-looking shower head to an individual, by way of contaminated water vapour release into the immediate atmosphere. Which is subsequently inhaled by the hapless victim. Not wishing to be accused of scaremongering above and beyond the point of information-provision, it’s fair to suggest that anyone using a contaminated shower puts themselves at risk of breathing in the bacteria which, in certain scenarios, could evolve into the much more dangerous Legionnaires’ disease, should the bug compromise an individual’s lungs.

Is Everyone Susceptible to Legionella Bacteria in the Home, Should the Conditions Present?

Whilst it’s worth noting that some people are far more susceptible to others in terms of developing a serious infection which could, if the conditions are prevalent, lead to the full-blown contracting of Legionnaires’ (traditionally those aged 45-plus, smokers, heavy drinkers and those already suffering from heart disease, diabetes or asthma should be most vigilant), nobody can realistically afford to turn a blind eye to the possibility; nor safely say they could avoid such issues. Plus, we’re discussing a probability factor which incorporates household items we all have some level of interaction with throughout our home lives, as opposed to something which we might come into contact with once in the proverbial blue moon.

Which is all the more reason why you need to adhere to guidelines set-out by professionals in the fields of water hygiene, who habitually describe in Layman’s terms just when, where, why, how and which regarding the following of certain procedures. Beneath we have lifted our own long-standing ‘method statement’ based around ‘showerhead disinfection’ protocols and practices; and which covers the all-important bases which should, if adhered to properly, help avoid any unwanted legionella bacteria taking root in our bathroom environments.

What Sort of Fundamental Risk Assessment Can a Homeowner Undertake Themselves?

But before we revisit this, let’s take a quick look at the risk assessment the homeowner can perform themselves from the outset. Most importantly you need to establish the shower’s water source and determine how it’s heated. So for example, if it’s fed by a water tank, you need to make it a priority to ensure said tank is inspected and cleaned thoroughly on an annual basis. Legionella bacterium can manifest as a result of feeding off rust, corrosion, biofilm and debris which might collect in the water storage facility. Again, the same rule of thumb generally applies should a calorifier be responsible for water heating, while if your property is served by a combi boiler then the threat is downgraded; chiefly because hot water isn’t stored, but rather heated up as and when required. However if you do possess a hot water storage tank, then it’s imperative that the water within is held at a consistent temperature of no less than 50°C so as to destroy possible contaminants. Away from storage tanks, and the more visually evident scourge of lime scale is also a primary food for bacteria to live off and thrive on; especially if your home is located in a recognised hard water area. Therefore routine descaling of both showerheads and taps on a minimum requirement monthly basis is a well-documented requirement. 

In addition to this – and picking up on a point we addressed at the top – water stagnation is equally dangerous when we’re talking about breeding grounds for legionella bacteria. Should a system not be used on a regular basis (in a domestic situation, think along the lines of an en-suite facility in a guest bedroom, perhaps) it’s not uncommon for pockets of stagnation to take a grip. Subsequently, once the infrequently-used outlet comes into operation, bacteria-infused water might be inhaled by an individual in the shower. Our advice would be to always run a shower for 2 minutes at least once a week, and leaving the bathroom while the water is on.

Are There Any Dedicated Products on the Market Which Counter Risk of Legionella in Domestic Situation?

Yes there are. More recent technological developments have seen various products appearing which work to combat the threat, including specially formulated showerhead cleaning products which effectively zap incoming water with UV to eliminate any bacteria as it passes through the shower. Meanwhile another interesting product as a uniquely designed flushing unit, which fits directly to showers and which is automatically triggered when used. Sports facilities and landlords with rented accommodation would ideally benefit from the installation of this type of safeguard, or any other setting where showers are either used intermittently (sports centres) or discarded for extended periods (in the case of out of term times re: student lets, for instance).

Our Long-established Method Statement Re: Showerhead Disinfection:

As promised, here’s our very own tried and tested approach to showerhead disinfection, which can (and is, habitually) carried out on both commercial, industrial and domestic sites as requested by a range of clients.

  • We shall arrange with the client convenient access times, with at least 10 days prior notice and a schedule of works to be completed
  • On arrival our engineer will produce their I.D card and obtain permission to enter the property
  • (Where commercial/industrial sites are concerned) The engineer will then obtain all relevant log books and information relevant to the site and identify the location and accessibility of showers
  • (Again, in relation to commercial/industrial sites) They will ensure that chemical resistant gloves and goggles are worn
  • Water will be temporarily isolated at each shower, when/where the showerheads will then be removed - and where possible - dismantled, de-scaled and cleaned
  • Showerheads shall then be placed in a disinfectant solution for a period of no less than 3 minutes
  • Once removed from the solution they shall be flushed in clean fresh water and reassembled
  • The water will be reconnected and all showers tested
  • On completion of the works (commercial/industrial clients), the agreed forms are to be completed and placed in the site’s log book
  • The engineer will return completed log book to the sites admin office. He will then complete copies of an engineer’s work sheet for the site and one for our records
  • On completion of the above tasks the engineer will sign out from site

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