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Windshield Washer Fluid: Breeding Ground For Bacteria and Germs? Should Technicians be Concerned?

June 17, 2010

Legionnaires' disease, caused by the legionella bacteria, is commonly linked to water systems such as air conditioning units, showers and fountains, where water is given off in a fine spray. But, now it seems that it can breed in windshield washer fluid tanks.

The case control study looked into the potential risk factors for drivers and passengers, given that most cases of sporadic, or isolated, Legionnaires' disease are rarely traced to a source, and that drivers figure disproportionately among cases of sporadic Legionella infection. In other words, the Windshield washer tank made the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria because the owner used water and not windshield washer fluid that has glycol and detergent that can kill the bacteria.

Researchers for the study interviewed 75 patients in England and Wales who had recovered from community acquired Legionnaires' disease between July 2008 and March 2009, comparing them to a group of matched people who had not experienced any similar infection. The study found two exposures associated with vehicle use where there was an increased risk of Legionnaires' disease: driving through industrial areas and driving or being a passenger in a vehicle without screenwash in its wiper fluid. These associations had not been previously identified. Some of the researchers feared that this rolling sprayers of lung destroying bacteria could infect the people who might have to top off the fluid. The study Windscreen wiper fluid without added screenwash in motor vehicles: a newly identified risk factor for Legionnaires' disease was published online in the European Journal of Epidemiology, on 8 June 2010 Can be found here

About the Author
Andrew Markel
Editor, Brake & Front End Magazine

Andrew Markel is an ASE Certified Technician and former service writer, and he brings this practical knowledge to the Brake & Front End team as editor.
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