Legionella is a bacterium present in water that can become a potential threat to human health when appropriate conditions for its growth and proliferation are met. These conditions frequently occur in large indoor facilities such as tanks, boilers, heater pipes and even shower heads. Between 2003 and 2004, 35 European countries reported over 9000 cases of Legionnaires 'disease. Overall mortality rate was 8.2% but this figure increased to 40% in people with compromised immune systems.
© Fotolia, 2012
The above statistics coupled with increased regulation of climate control equipment and water distribution systems led to the need for more effective bactericide systems. The European Union (EU) funded Legiotex project team realised this need and has developed a prototype filter that inhibits the growth and proliferation of Legionella in both showers and climate control systems.
Legiotex comprises a consortium of seven companies from Spain, Italy, Germany, Norway and Greece. The project began in September 2008 and saw the consortium develop a filter prototype which is composed of environmentally-friendly bactericides attached to non-woven textiles. This filter prototype is then inserted into reusable cartridges for easy installation into various water systems such as shower heads. At the same time, a control system is operational and able to detect if the bactericide rate and pressure are being kept at constant levels. If not, an alarm is raised via an electronic control system making the user aware of high levels of Legionella concentration.
Compared with current market solutions, a developed filter would reduce the level of bacteria contamination in water by up to 75%. The filter is also expected to be cheap and easy to install.
"Legiotex opens up various opportunities for SMEs in the sector to develop an innovative product capable of preventing Legionella outbreaks with minimum maintenance and installation costs. In addition, SMEs in the textile sector could also benefit due to the need for non-woven fabrics in the technology," says Legiotex project coordinator, Carlota Espuelas.
The two-year Legiotex project finished in September 2010 with final results expected during the final quarter of 2013. Legiotex received EU-funding under the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) amounting to just over €1 million. This investment will no doubt reap dividends with the consortium estimating that the successful exploitation of the expected research results could lead to a yearly reduction of 1,500 Legionnaires 'disease cases and 150 potential deaths. These figures would represent €300 million in annual savings for the EU's economy.
A commercialised Legiotex water filtering system expected in October 2013 would help combat the effects of pollution coming from water treatment systems by using biodegradable chemical agents. It is also predicted that the final product would cut down on industrial waste by recycling the filter fabric and reusing the cartridges.