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Building Water Systems: The Sustainability and Public Health Nexus

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Building Water Systems: The Sustainability and Public Health Nexus

Building Water Systems: The Sustainability and Public Health Nexus

Legionella outbreaks, which can cause the deadly Legionnaires’ disease, are on the rise. In 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,500 Legionnaires’ disease cases. Within the general population, 10% of those affected will die. In a healthcare setting, the death rate jumps to 25%. And according to the CDC, 9 out of 10 Legionella outbreaks were preventable. Sound building water health plans in a hospital/healthcare setting are critical.

Think about that… we have an engineering problem that’s causing 7,500 people to get sick every year, and there’s a known solution that can prevent 90% of it. How would we respond if 7,500 people were injured in bridge collapses each year? It’d be all over the news and we’d demand a solution. Well, that’s what we have with water systems in hospitals and long-term care facilities. This is a big deal.

That’s why NSF International and the National Association of Environmental Health (NEHA) are partnering to host Legionella Conference 2019: “Building Water Systems: The Sustainability and Public Health Nexus” Sept. 11-13 in Los Angeles. There, scientific and public health experts will explore the complex relationship between water conservation and Legionella prevention in building water systems, including in a healthcare setting, where the disease is especially dangerous if contracted by those who are immune suppressed.

Joining today to discuss the importance of building water health in hospitals and healthcare settings are Chris Boyd of NSF International, a global public health organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Dr. Dave Dyjack, executive director of the National Environmental Health Association.

Chris led New York City’s response to the 2015 Legionnaires’ outbreak that hospitalized over 100 people and resulted in 16 deaths. He now leads the Building Water Health program for NSF International and works with healthcare facilities and municipalities across the U.S. and Canada, teaching and conducting training in an effort to prevent Legionella outbreaks.

Dr. Dyjack’s 30-year career includes expertise in environmental health, emergency preparedness and response, public health informatics, infectious disease, workforce development, governmental infrastructure, maternal and child health, health equity and chronic disease. A board-certified industrial hygienist, David also has a doctorate from the University of Michigan and a master’s from the University of Utah, both in public health. Prior to joining NEHA, he managed the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ grant and contract portfolio and 75 health professionals in support of 2,800 local health departments.

If you’d like to hear more about the history of Legionnaire’s and additional perspective on this topic, check out: Episode 32: Legionella: A Manageable Risk for Health Systems | Dave Purkiss and Joseph Cotruvo | Legionella 2018

And don’t forget to check out our extensive coverage of Infection Prevention and Control topics.

About Legionella Conference 2019:

NSF International and the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) will host Legionella Conference 2019: “Building Water Systems: The Sustainability and Public Health Nexus” Sept. 11-13 in Los Angeles to explore the complex relationship between water conservation and microbial contamination prevention in building water systems.

International experts from government agencies, universities, hospitals and private laboratories in 11 countries are among the scheduled speakers. Organizations represented include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Public Services and Procurement Canada, Network for Public Health Law and Association of State & Territorial Health Officials.

Water conservation efforts can sometimes have the unintended consequence of amplifying Legionella bacteria growth. The pathogen proliferates in poorly maintained water systems and can cause Legionnaires’ Disease, a serious and sometimes fatal flu-like illness that has increased more than five-fold between 2000 and 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC). Common sources of contaminated aerosols include cooling towers, low-flow fixtures, shower heads, HVAC systems, decorative spas and fountains.

International experts will address a wide range of topics related to building water health and water conservation, with topics including complex hospital water systems, cooling towers, proactive water quality monitoring, risk assessments, plumbing engineering, communication plans, greywater transfers for irrigation and culture change in water safety.

Visit host Legionella Conference 2019 for a full list of speakers and registration details.

I want to give a shout out and big thank you to Michael Diamond from TIPS for making this episode possible. You’ve heard Michael’s name before as we’ve worked with him a bunch over the past few years on our Infection Prevention and Control series, and our coverage of the HITS Consortium conference among other things.

TIPS, or the Infection Prevention Strategy, is a non-profit that makes the process of vetting new technologies, implementing successful programs and inspiring innovation more efficient, more accessible, more global and more collaborative. They believe that we shouldn’t have to wait years for promising innovations, ideas, and processes to be implemented and accepted. I agree. You can learn more about TIPS at

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