"Most people in the United States think we have a handle on our water quality problems and drinking water isn't something we need to worry about anymore. If anything, the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and frequent Legionnaires' disease outbreaks across the nation have demonstrated that's not the case," said Kerry Hamilton, PhD, an assistant professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University and former doctoral researcher at Drexel, who led the investigation into how the Legionella pneumophila bacteria can grow and spread in indoor water supplies.
Legionella, the bacteria that causes pneumonia-like Legionnaire's disease, has been responsible for a number of recent outbreaks and can be fatal in 10-25 percent of infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it is considered one of the deadliest waterborne diseases in the United States, it is actually contracted via inhalation or aspiration. This means to accurately understand environments that could increase one's risk of exposure, researchers need to examine places where people are exposed to water in the air.
People - Infections - Risks - Hamilton - Model
"To protect people from infections, we first need to understand the risks," Hamilton said. "If we can better model and predict how water quality degrades under different circumstances, we can more efficiently target resources and prevent disease outbreaks."
The research considered a variety of factors to assess risk of exposure -- from any combination of showering, using a sink or flushing a toilet -- using water with a range of bacterial concentrations. It also took into consideration that older people or people who already have a health condition are at greater risk of becoming ill from Legionella exposure. And it is one of the first studies to closely examine how water-efficient fixtures, in a green building for example, can affect risks.
Shower - Risks
"We found that shower risks were...
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