Aug 09, 2018

Researchers Find Municipal Softeners May Increase Pathogen Risk in Drinking Water

The research from the University of Illinois scientists found that municipal softeners could lead to drinking water bacteria growth, such as legionella

Drinking water pipes may be vulnerable to bacteria due to softeners
Drinking water pipes may be vulnerable to bacteria due to softeners

New research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that softening agents may amplify the risk of pathogen release into municipal drinking water by weakening the grip that bacteria has on pipe interiors. The new study, published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes, found that the addition of anti-scalant chemicals to city drinking water causes biofilms to grow thicker and become softer, as reported by Science Daily.

The study measured the thickness and stiffness of law-grown biofilms using magnetomotive optical coherence elastography in an attempt to mimic what occurs within plumbing systems and incorporated groundwater found in the Champaign-Urbana area.

“Increased biofilm thickness means more bacteria, and the softening increases the chance that pieces will detach and foul the water supply under normal flow pressure,” Co-Author Helen Nguyen said. “In building where water has been stagnating for a while, this could become a public health issue.”

The research team is continuing their drinking water pipe studies by investigating ways to physically remove biofilms while pipes remain in place and the effects of anti-corrosive chemicals. Learn more about the study here.