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Copper tubing has held an exceptional status for being the ideal option for plumbing material. Some copper tubes even carry 50-year warranties, and installed appropriately, these pricey plumbing materials can guarantee absolutely no failure during their lifetime. But as one study has recently uncovered, copper might not be entirely beneficial.

A study, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, was made on the impact of pipe materials, using conditions of low flow and low chlorine residual. It concluded that copper piping, along with low flow conditions, had a significant impact on plastic pipe and forLegionella pneumophila colonisation to be introduced into the environment.

Leg. pneumophila is bacterium found in aquatic systems where it lives symbiotically with amoebae. The bacterium also causes a potentially fatal and acute pneumonia called Legionnaire’s disease. It has also been known to cause Pontiac fever, which is a non-fatal and acute respiratory disease that mimics symptoms of influenza.

The study then notes that given the popularity of copper piping in most buildings and with the right conditions, there may be an increased risk with drinking water systems. So if your building or property uses copper materials for its plumbing, it would be advisable to find out how to test for Legionella, and to ensure that you get accurate results. 

First, you will want to find a legitimate Legionella testing service. This service should provide you with sufficient information as to how the testing process works and which Legionella testing kits would be appropriate for the area you want tested. The service should also be able to inform you which areas have a higher risk for Legionella so you can prioritise which ones to have tested. And make sure that the Legionella testing service also arranges the pickup of the samples you’ve taken. 

Second, follow the process for collecting samples from each area. Methods will vary with pre-flush and post-flush collections. Follow the instructions to the letter and the testing will certainly be accurate. 

Third, the laboratory, where the testing is done, should be a certified lab. UKAS-accredited laboratories follow water microbiology efficiency testing schemes and ensure that every step of the process is in accordance with technical guidance. 

Finally, know the frequency at which you need to test different areas of your property. According to the Health And Safety Executive, cooling towers, spa pools, and other open water systems need to be tested at least quarterly. As for hot and cold enclosed systems, testing may be needed when circumstances or conditions indicate possible presence of Legionella.

+Duncan Hollis