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BOMA joins CDC effort to halt Legionella spread

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help reduce the risk of Legionella in commercial properties.

According to CDC, the number of people being diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in the US grew by nearly four times from 2000 through 2014. Around 80 percent of outbreaks occurred in hotels, long-term care facilities and hospitals.

Almost all of the building-associated outbreaks were caused by problems that could have been prevented with more effective water system management, according to BOMA.

Legionella grows in building water systems that are not adequately maintained. CDC is asking building owners and managers to adopt newly published standards that promote Legionella water management programs.

These programs reduce the risk of growth and spread of Legionella in building water systems, thus helping prevent outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease.

The CDC has released a new toolkit:“Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth and Spread in Buildings: A Practical Guide to Implementing Industry Standards.”



“Years of outbreak response have taught us where to find Legionella hot spots,” said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“The toolkit will help building owners and managers better understand where those hot spots are and put measures in place to reduce the risk of Legionnaires’ disease.”

Of the recent cases investigated by CDC, the most common source of building-associated Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks was drinkable water (56 percent), such as water used for showering, followed by cooling towers (22 percent) and hot tubs (seven percent).

Other sources included industrial equipment (four percent) and a decorative fountain/water feature (four percent). In two outbreaks, the source was never identified.

Last summer, New York City suffered its largest ever outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease when 12 people were killed and another 120 were sickened in the South Bronx after Legionella bacteria was traced to the cooling tower of a Bronx hotel.

One Response

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  1. Dan Coday
    Jun 16, 2016 - 03:58 PM

    Cooling towers are cited as a common source of Legionnaires’ disease. Most discussion around Legionella risk mitigation with cooling towers is around operation, maintenance, water treatment, and reporting. However, the root cause of the cooling tower structure itself is being overlooked! There is readily available and cost effective cooling tower technology that already exists and can be supplied by any major cooling tower manufacturer that significantly reduces the potential for Legionella feeding and breeding while reducing the spread of emissions by 70-92% compared to what’s currently installed and in most specifications. A few simple modifications to building code requiring these minimum cooling tower design requirements will go a long way to ensure public safety considering today’s growing threat of Legionnaires’ disease. For more information, see my November 2015 LinkedIn post:


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