CIPHE urges installers to be vigilant about legionella

Legionella cases from June to October are on the rise, according to Public Health England

Realistic rendering of bacteria - in red colors

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering – CIPHE – has urged installers to “be vigilant when it comes to potential sources of legionella bacteria”.

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The CIPHE said that falling prices of luxury items such as hot tubs and spa baths – coupled with warm temperatures – has “created a perfect opportunity for legionella and other water-associated problems”.

CIPHE plumber SamDemeza

“While those of us in the industry know that all man-made hot and cold water systems can provide an environment ripe for the legionella bacteria to grow, the average consumer has no idea it can thrive in places such as hot tubs, whirlpool baths, compost heaps and even garden hoses,” said CIPHE CEO Kevin Wellman.

Earlier this year, a microbiologist made the news for sharing one of his bathroom habits designed to prevent him or his family from inhaling the potentially lethal bacteria legionella. Dr Tom Makin said after periods as short as a few days away, the first thing he does when getting home is turn his shower on to run for 20 minutes and leave the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.

In 2017, a hot tub company was fined £1m after admitting to a health and safety breach that led to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease. According to the BMA at the time, two men died and 20 others were affected due to the outbreak of the bacteria in one of the company’s hot tubs on display.

“The growing popularity in domestic hot tubs and spa baths means that many families have a potential source of an outbreak within their homes and gardens,” said Wellman. “While the CIPHE is working to raise awareness that these appliances need to be correctly installed, maintained, cleaned and chlorinated, many members of the public are blissfully unaware of the dangers.”

According to Public Health England, there has been a season rise in legionella cases from June to October. Last year saw an increase in reported cases to 814, 532 of which were confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s disease, representing an increase of around 20% from the previous year.

“There is no legislation covering domestic hot tub installations,” Wellman said. “With annual deaths caused by poor plumbing now outnumbering those caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, we need to address the dangers that poorly designed or maintained systems can bring.

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“The industry needs to be equipped with the knowledge and expertise to safely deal with potential legionella sources. It’s no surprise that poorly designed, installed and maintained systems are the most at risk.”