Ice is an integral part of our summers just as sunshine and beach days are. But did you know that lying dormant in those crisp cold crunchable ice cubes could very well be Legionella? One main factor that can cause ice machines to grow Legionella is inadequate maintenance and cleaning. This can cause biofilms to form inside the machine, which can provide an apt environment for Legionella to grow, and ultimately cause Legionnaires Disease. Another contributing factor to Legionella growth is temperature. Legionella loves temperatures between 68°F and 122°F. As the infected water cycles through the ice machine, Legionella freezes in your ice cubes. You may be thinking, shouldn’t something frozen kill Legionella Bacterium? In short, no. Legionella is smart, it will go dormant without any evidence or taste that would not alarm any of us.

Well what exactly is Legionnaires Disease and is this something that I really need to worry about? Legionnaires Disease is a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria. People can get sick when they aerosolize small droplets of water contaminated with Legionella, or when water goes down the wrong pipe, hence if you cough or choke while chewing your ice and inhale the infected microdroplets, then you can become dangerously ill or worse with Legionnaires Disease. The most common at-risk people for contracting Legionella are those per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), whom “are 50 years or older, current or former smokers, those with a chronic lung disease (like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema), people with weak immune systems or who take drugs that weaken the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy), people with cancer and people with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, kidney failure, or liver failure”. 

Everyday we go about our daily lives without realizing sometimes the dangers of what is lurking within our waters. Legionella does not take any vacations as it will grow in any water supply regardless of the season. Although Legionella prefers to grow in warmer temperatures, it also enjoys cool places to hang out like an ice machine. Legionella goes dormant at temperatures 68°F and below and it will multiply at a dangerous rapid rate at temperatures between 68°F and 122°F.

Ice machines are found everywhere including hotels, cafeterias, hospitals, nursing homes and senior living facilities, airplanes, fountain drink stations such as gas stations, restaurants, and bars, etc. Ice is not the only risk factor for Legionella Bacterium, it can be found in many other places including: agriculture, produce and recreational misters, evaporative air coolers, spray and pressure washing equipment, machine and fire suppression systems, safety showers and eyewash stations, metalworking lubrication and coolant systems, cooling towers, boilers, closed-loop systems, dental and medical equipment, hair and aesthetics salons, etc.

So where does that leave us, what are we supposed to do? Good news is that IWC Innovations and our licensed professionals are ready to leap into action to quickly prevent Legionella from infecting your ice machines. IWC Innovations has your simple and affordable solution; highly specialized ice machine filters! The best method to reduce your Legionella risk is to filter out the Legionella bacteria that is able to exist because of the warm temperatures and biofilm that can grow due to inadequate maintenance and cleaning.

By implementing these specialized filters, you not only decrease your risk for Legionella growing but you will also significantly decrease your risk of a public relations nightmare, with a Legionella outbreak at your facility. Just as you must change the oil in your car, you should replace your ice machine filters according to manufacturer specifications and best practices.