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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Mar;75(5):1256-63. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01923-08. Epub 2009 Jan 5.

Transfer rates of enteric microorganisms in recycled water during machine clothes washing.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia. joanne.o'toole@med.monash.edu.au


Approximately 15% of overall Australian household water usage is in the laundry; hence, a significant reduction in household drinking water demand could be achieved if potable-quality water used for clothes washing is replaced with recycled water. To investigate the microbiological safety of using recycled water in washing machines, bacteriophages MS-2 and PRD-1, Escherichia coli, and Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts were used in a series of experiments to investigate the transfer efficiency of enteric microorganisms from washing machine water to objects including hands, environmental surfaces, air, and fabric swatches. By determining the transference efficiency, it is possible to estimate the numbers of microorganisms that the user will be exposed to if recycled water with various levels of residual microorganisms is used in washing machines. Results, expressed as transfer rates to a given surface area per object, showed that the mean transfer efficiency of E. coli, bacteriophages MS-2 and PRD-1, and C. parvum oocysts from seeded water to fabric swatches ranged from 0.001% to 0.090%. Greatest exposure to microorganisms occurred through direct contact of hands with seeded water and via hand contact with contaminated fabric swatches. No microorganisms were detected in the air samples during the washing machine spin cycle, and transfer rates of bacteriophages from water to environmental surfaces were 100-fold less than from water directly to hands. Findings from this study provide relevant information that can be used to refine regulations governing recycled water and to allay public concerns about the use of recycled water.

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