If you are keeping an eye out for Legionella, you already have a lot of things to think about. From the quality of your water to the good repair of your mechanical systems, it is important that you are cognizant of the risk that Legionella poses.
Many individuals may choose to install a fresh air intake near a piece of equipment that could house Legionella with the thought that the fresh air can help to keep the area from getting stuffy and grimy. But does this strategy actually work?
What Are Fresh Air Intakes?
A fresh air intake is a type of venting system present in almost all buildings to some extent. In many cases, a fresh air intake presents simply as a duct that runs from the outside into the desired room, such as a roof t or the location of the HVAC system.
Furnaces and similar machinery need oxygen as part of their operational processes, so to many people, it makes sense to route the outside duct to this area.
And because buildings are being built tighter and more efficiently than ever before to save money on energy, fresh air intakes are becoming increasingly important, as outside air is less and less able to penetrate a building on its own.
How Legionella and Fresh Air Intakes Are Related
Legionella and fresh air intakes are closely related, even if they may not seem so at first. When a piece of equipment, whether a cooling tower, a hot water heater or something else entirely, is responsible for consistently handling tepid water or water that changes temperatures frequently, it can develop bacterial growth and other pollutants over time. Legionella is one such bacteria; however, it is perhaps more dangerous than many of its fellow organisms.
Legionella is a gram negative bacteria that can be transmitted to humans in the right circumstances. If the mucous membranes in the eyes or other areas come into contact with Legionella bacteria in the air, a person can fall ill.
Most commonly, this presents as Pontiac fever, which feels much like the seasonal flu. However, Legionella can also cause its namesake Legionnaires’ disease, which may be fatal in as many as 10% of those who come down with it.
Do Fresh Air Intakes Have Any Impact on Legionella?
One of the primary reasons why it is not recommended to install a fresh air intake close to any system that you suspect could generate Legionella is because these bacteria are primarily transmitted to humans not via touch but through aerosolized particles such as water vapor.
The purpose of a fresh air intake is to help your ventilation system to circulate air throughout the building. If the intake is placed next to a piece of machinery, such as a cooling tower, that produces steam or mist as part of its regular operation, you could be directly bringing your fresh and unsullied air into contact with contaminated Legionella particles.
As your ventilation system runs, these Legionella infected particles will be drawn directly into the vent system because the air intake was placed so close to the problematic piece of equipment.
Where a cooling tower or other machine on its own may spread Legionella at a slower pace, installing a fresh air intake next to it hastens this spread as the HVAC system pulls air contaminated with droplets directly into the vent system.
Legionella infected air is blown throughout the building, which hastens the spread of the bacteria.
Even if you do not believe that any of your water-reliant machinery is infected with Legionella, or you are confident in your Legionella prevention plan, it is unwise to use fresh air intakes in this manner.
You could cause severe illness or even death to those in the building. However, your system likely still needs access to fresh air, which is why it is important to work with a Legionella compliance expert who can review your building and give you insight into how to achieve your goals while keeping your facility safe.
Work with the Legionella Compliance and Prevention Experts
If you have a fresh air intake near a potential Legionella source, you could quickly have a large-scale outbreak emergency on your hands. Be sure to rely on the experts to help you navigate your options for keeping your building functioning as efficiently as possible while keeping people safe from potentially dangerous bacteria.
The professionals at Legionella Compliance Solutions can offer guidance and help you develop a water treatment and emergency plan. Reach out to schedule an evaluation with a Legionella compliance expert today.