(HealthDay News) — Legionella bacteria can grow in windshield washer fluid and maintain stable populations in the fluid for up to 14 months, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, held from May 17–20 in Boston.
Researchers found Legionella bacteria in the windshield washer fluid of 75% of school buses they tested in one central Arizona school district.
Otto Schwake, of Arizona State University in Tempe, and colleagues decided to conduct their study after previous research suggested a link between cars and increased risk for Legionnaires’ disease. One of those studies concluded that nearly 20% of Legionnaires’ cases in Great Britain were associated with windshield washer fluid.
“Washer fluid spray can release potentially dangerous numbers of these bacteria into the air,” Schwake said in a statement. “This study is the first to detect high levels of Legionella in automobiles or aerosolized by washer fluid spray,” he said. “While potential transmission of a deadly respiratory disease from a source as common as automobile windshield washing systems is significant, the study also points to the fact people can be exposed to pathogens — particularly those occurring naturally in the environment — in previously unknown and unusual ways.”