Understanding How Legionnaires Disease and HVAC Systems Are Connected
Legionnaires’ Disease became famous when it first caused an outbreak at an American Legion Conference in 1976. Since then, there have been several outbreaks all over the world and most of them have been traced to contaminated HVAC systems. Poorly maintained HVAC systems are the ideal dark, humid locations for breeding Legionnella bacteria. The bacteria are vented through water droplets into the building’s cooling system resulting in widespread infections. When you actually consider this infection route, it is a little scary. Nearly every building has a cooling and heating system. But what is the guarantee that the building you work in or stay in is clean and bacteria-free?
Most Buildings Are Safe
Yes, most buildings have HVAC systems that are checked and maintained by conscientious contractors. Contractors have trained maintenance staff that check primary exposure sites like intake ducts, internal ducting systems, air filters, cooling towers, water spray humidifiers, hot water storage tanks, and evaporative condensers to ensure that they are contamination-free. Maintenance personnel also check secondary exposure sources like spray nozzles, stagnant water in sprinkler systems, faucets and showerheads. This ensures that the building is safe and the system is disinfected. However, problems can happen.
How Do You Ensure That Your System is Maintained?
You can start by being proactive and checking your building’s HVAC systems through a simple visual check.
- Start by checking the air vents. Do they appear dirty, oily or filled with a particulate matter?
- Do you smell a musty odor in the office/ residence early in the morning or late at night?
- Ask your family members or office workers to keep an eye out for flare-ups of respiratory conditions.
- Listen to complaints and take them seriously.
- Ask your HVAC systems engineers to check the system at least once in two months.
- Make sure the air ducts are cleaned every two years.