Plumbers call for mandatory testing scheme to fight NZ's high rate of Legionnaires’ disease

New Zealand plumbers are calling on mandatory tests in hospitals, rest homes and childcare centres for the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease.

More needs to be done to ensure Kiwis are protected from the severe form of pnemonia, which can be deadly, Master Plumbers chief executive Greg Wallace said in a statement today. His comments follow a new Otago University study that has found New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of Legionnaires’ disease.

"We want the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to introduce mandatory nationwide water sample testing in all high-risk facilities, including childcare centres, retirement villages, rest homes and hospitals - both privately and publicly owned," Mr Wallace said.

"As well as mandatory inspections, nationally consistent and regulated maintenance programmes should be put in place. New Zealand’s Building Code is currently lagging behind Ministry of Health guidelines."

Legionella longbeachae, commonly found in soil and compost, was behind the majority of reported cases in the study (63%), with Legionella pneumophila responsible for almost 22%.

Naturally occurring in lakes and streams, Legionella pneumophila can also grow and spread in artificial water systems such as plumbing networks - particularly in pipes where water is sitting unused for long periods and in shower fittings.

People can contract Legionnaires’ by breathing in small droplets of water containing the bacteria.

"The best way for building owners to know if they have safe water is to have water samples regularly taken and tested by someone trained in doing so," Mr Wallace said. 

"As this Otago University study shows, you don’t know what you’re dealing with until you start analysing samples and performing the right tests.

"Once you have that information, you’re better equipped to find the best way to address the issue."

Householders can take simple steps to protect themselves against Legionella pneumophila in their home’s water supply.

"Make sure your hot water heating system is set to at least 60C at the tank," Mr Wallace explaimed.

"If your home has a shower that is not used regularly, run it each week so you don't have stagnant water sitting in pipes - that's where legionella bacteria loves to grow."

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The severe form of pneumonia is three times more common here than previously thought. Source: 1 NEWS