Hot tubs can prove a great addition to your garden, providing a great activity for parties and allowing you to enjoy the pleasure of outdoor bathing all year round! In fact, it's no surprise that around 10% of UK homeowners now own one. However, what many people don't realise is that without proper management, hot tubs and other household plumbing installations and appliances using water such as showers, storage cisterns in warm roof spaces, whirlpool baths and flexible hosepipe tap connectors, to name a few, can become sources of the bacteria legionella, which can lead to the potentially fatal Legionnaires' Disease.
What is Legionnaires' Disease?
Legionnaires' Disease is an often fatal infection of the lungs, caused by the bacteria legionella pneumonophila. Although commonly found in freshwater sources such as rivers and streams, legionella does not usually pose a contamination risk from these sources due to the special conditions it requires to multiply; readily available nutrients and temperatures of between 20 and 45 degrees. Rather than being passed from person to person, the disease is contracted when water droplets containing the bacteria are inhaled. Due to the vulnerability of their lungs compared to other groups of the population, the elderly, young children and smokers are particularly at risk of infection from legionella.
Where am I at risk of Legionnaire's Disease in the home?
Legionella bacteria can lie dormant at a temperature below 25oC, however, above this temperature it starts to grow and multiply, until around 60 oC. The bacteria can infect our lungs so it is dangerous as an aerosol, such as a mist or droplets in the air that can be breathed in. This means that the appliances presenting the greatest risk are often those that produce or store water around 40oC. These could include hot tubs, baths, spa and whirlpool baths, showers and cisterns. Scaled up taps and valves along with certain flexible hose materials can present their own risk, creating the perfect habitat for bacteria.
What can I do to prevent against the risk of catching Legionnaire's Disease?
The most important thing you can do to mitigate against the risk of catching Legionnaires' Disease is to always follow the manufacturer's instructions for whatever installation or appliance you are using, which are written with your health and safety in mind. You should also ensure that your installation is always thoroughly cleaned, maintained and conditioned to help minimise bacteria growth, and consider engaging a Competent Person to undertake a risk assessment of your property. By highlighting any potential sources of legionella risk around your home, the installer will be able to advise you about how to best look after your plumbing system in order to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
I'm a landlord. What action should I take to protect my tenants from Legionnaire's Disease?
As a landlord, you have certain obligations to control the risk of legionella bacteria in your rented dwelling. Read this leaflet to learn about your responsibilities to keep your tenants safe from Legionnaire's Disease.
So this weekend, why not take some time to ensure that your hot tub remains a safe and fun garden feature by following the above advice? If you'd like to search for a member of the Competent Person Scheme in your area, simply visit http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.