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Is Your Hot Tub a Killing Machine?

Make Sure Your Spa or Hot Tub is Not Harboring Deadly Legionnaire’s Disease

Legionella bacteria

You may have seen in the news recently that health club visitors at several Orlando, Florida area fitness facilities have contracted Legionnaire’s Disease. The source has been tracked to their hot tubs.

OK, this happened in Florida, but that is not because of anything unique to that state. Although their high heat and humidity might, emphasis on might, be a contributing factor. This does serve as a timely reminder to all of us who enjoy spending time in hot water for health reasons, as well as for recreation.

Unlike other illnesses that are tracked to hot tubs, Legionnaire’s Disease (legionellosis) is actually spread through the air. A person can contract this respiratory illness by inhaling water vapor, such as steam or mist, if the body of water you are in is hosting the legionella bacteria.

Legionnaire’s Disease is not really a ‘hot tub issue’, per se.

According to the CDC:

…the key to preventing legionellosis is making sure that the water systems in buildings are maintained in order to reduce the risk of growing and spreading Legionella.

Legionella grow best in warm water, like hot tubs, but can also be found in

  • Hot water tanks and heaters
  • Large plumbing systems
  • Cooling towers (air-conditioning systems for large buildings)
  • Decorative fountains
  • Showers…yep, even the shower

You may remember the first outbreaks of LD were traced back to an air-conditioning system.

Now, your private hot tub is safer than a spa found in a large facility. That doesn’t mean you can’t be harboring this bacteria.

Naturally this leads to the question:

How Do I Keep My Friends and Family Safely Enjoying My Hot Tub?

boys enjoying hot tub

The most important factor in keeping your hot tub safe is to be sure you are using the disinfecting chemicals properly!

For most of our customers, the disinfecting chemical is chlorine. Other customer’s systems use bromine. So you want to be sure you keep your spa chlorine or bromine levels set appropriately.

The other pool chemistry that is important to regulate is the pH level.

If you are not sure how, contact us or another pool cleaning pro to check out your spa or teach you how.

If you go to a public facility, locally or while on vacation out of town, you don’t have the ability to test the system yourself. And you can’t judge the safety just because the water “looks clean.”

The CDC recommends you ask the following questions of the operator of the hot tub:

  • What was the most recent health inspection score for the hot tub?
  • Are disinfectant and pH levels checked at least twice per day?
  • Are disinfectant and pH levels checked more often when the hot tub is being used by a lot of people?
  • Are the following maintenance activities performed regularly:
    • Removal of the slime or biofilm layer by scrubbing and cleaning?
    • Replacement of the hot tub water filter according to manufacturer’s recommendations?
    • Replacement of hot tub water?

Sure, we can’t go with you to check the facilities while you are on vacation…hmmm…let us know where you are going and maybe we’ll join you!  But we sure can help ensure that you are safely enjoying your hot tub at home.

Give us a call at 831-438-0882 if you have any concerns about your pool or spa chemistry.

Photo of Legionella bacteria courtesy of Barclay Water Management