Jun 14, 2017

NSF Intl. Standard to Address Legionnaires' Disease Risks

CDC data indicates that majority of disease reports are associated with health care facilities

NSF Intl. develops new standard for Legionnaires' Disease

NSF Intl., a global public health and safety organization, announced it is developing a building water health standard to help building owners and operators evaluate and minimize the risk of disease and injury associated with building water systems. The new standard, NSF 444, will address growing public concern about building water health, including recent findings on Legionnaires’ disease cases reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Based on a CDC analysis of data from 20 states and New York City, 76% of reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease were found to be associated with health care facilities. These findings highlight the risk of Legionella bacteria exposure for patients, especially in long-term care facilities and hospitals. This is not the first time the CDC has warned about health risks associated with building water systems.

In June 2016, CDC Vital Signs stated that reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease had nearly quadrupled since 2004 with 5,000 diagnosed cases in 2014. Water management problems were cited as one of the main causes of these outbreaks.

In addition, the CDC published a toolkit for building owners and managers, Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth & Spread in Buildings: A Practical Guide to Implementing Industry Standards.

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious lung infection contracted by inhaling small droplets of water that contain Legionella bacteria. According to the CDC report, one in four people who contract Legionnaires’ disease from a health care facility will die as a result.

In facilitating development of a building water health standard, NSF Intl. will help establish the minimum requirements and expectations necessary to prevent disease and injury from physical, chemical and microbial hazards. The standard NSF 444: Prevention of Injury and Disease Associated with Building Water Systems will establish minimum requirements for the design, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement, and expansion of new and existing building water systems (potable and non-potable). The new standard applies to human-occupied commercial, institutional, multi-unit residential and industrial buildings, as well as entertainment venues, such as concert halls and sports arenas. This standard does not apply to single-family residential buildings. The new building water health standard is expected to be finalized and published in 2018.

Interested stakeholders are invited to participate in the standard development process facilitated by NSF Intl. Health care providers, water authorities, public health departments and other interested parties can participate in the joint committee tasked with developing the new building water health standard.