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Deadly Bacteria Found in School Bus Windshield Cleaner

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Jarod Cassidy3 years ago

New research has determined that windshield washer fluid can be a source of the deadly bacteria Legionella, and the bacteria was found in nearly 75 percent of school buses testing in one district of Arizona, posing a potential risk to children.

What is Legionella?

  • Identified in 1976, Legionella can lead to respiratory illness and is responsible for a deadly pneumonia known as Legionnaire’s disease or Pontiac fever.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaire’s disease every year, with up to 30 percent of cases being fatal.
  • Legionella normally resides in warm water environments and is transmitted to the human body after a person breathes in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria.

About the Legionella Washer Fluid Study

“Washer fluid spray can release potentially dangerous numbers of these bacteria into the air. These results suggest that automobiles may serve as a source of transmission for Lengionella.” – Otto Schwake as published by Infection Control Today

According to Infection Control Today, the new information was based off of a series of experiments conducted in 2012. Arizona State University doctoral student Otto Schwake and his colleagues attempted to grow and maintain Legionella bacteria in different washer fluids to determine if the products were effective in eliminating the bacteria.

The researchers were able to determine that not only did the concentration of bacteria increase in the washer fluid, but the bacteria was able to maintain a stable population for a period of up to 14 months. A follow up study found culturable Legionella in roughly 75 of school buses tested in central Arizona.

While not normally associated with windshield washer fluid, the new research shows that the product does provide both a environment for the bacteria to grow and a means for the bacteria to be transmitted to humans, as the fluid does create a mist when being disensed.

Another study conducted in the United Kingdom determined that 20 percent of all Legionnaire’s disease cases not associated with hospitals or outbreaks were attributed to automobile windshield washer fluid.


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