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Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Apr 16;53(8):4528-4541. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b03000. Epub 2019 Feb 15.

Risk-Based Critical Concentrations of Legionella pneumophila for Indoor Residential Water Uses.

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School for Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment , Arizona State University , Tempe , Arizona 85281 , United States.
The Biodesign Institute Center for Environmental Health Engineering , Arizona State University , Tempe , Arizona 85281 , United States.
Microsoft Applied Artificial Intelligence Group , 1 Memorial Drive , Cambridge , Massachusetts 02142 , United States.
American Water Research Laboratory , 213 Carriage Lane , Delran , New Jersey 08075 , United States.
Drexel University , 3141 Chestnut Street , Philadelphia , Pennsylvania 19104 , United States.


Legionella spp. is a key contributor to the United States waterborne disease burden. Despite potentially widespread exposure, human disease is relatively uncommon, except under circumstances where pathogen concentrations are high, host immunity is low, or exposure to small-diameter aerosols occurs. Water quality guidance values for Legionella are available for building managers but are generally not based on technical criteria. To address this gap, a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) was conducted using target risk values in order to calculate corresponding critical concentrations on a per-fixture and aggregate (multiple fixture exposure) basis. Showers were the driving indoor exposure risk compared to sinks and toilets. Critical concentrations depended on the dose response model (infection vs clinical severity infection, CSI), risk target used (infection risk vs disability adjusted life years [DALY] on a per-exposure or annual basis), and fixture type (conventional vs water efficient or "green"). Median critical concentrations based on exposure to a combination of toilet, faucet, and shower aerosols ranged from ∼10-2 to ∼100 CFU per L and ∼101 to ∼103 CFU per L for infection and CSI dose response models, respectively. As infection model results for critical L. pneumophila concentrations were often below a feasible detection limit for culture-based assays, the use of CSI model results for nonhealthcare water systems with a 10-6 DALY pppy target (the more conservative target) would result in an estimate of 12.3 CFU per L (arithmetic mean of samples across multiple fixtures and/or over time). Single sample critical concentrations with a per-exposure-corrected DALY target at each conventional fixture would be 1.06 × 103 CFU per L (faucets), 8.84 × 103 CFU per L (toilets), and 14.4 CFU per L (showers). Using a 10-4 annual infection risk target would give a 1.20 × 103 CFU per L mean for multiple fixtures and single sample critical concentrations of 1.02 × 105, 8.59 × 105, and 1.40 × 103 CFU per L for faucets, toilets, and showers, respectively. Annual infection risk-based target estimates are in line with most current guidance documents of less than 1000 CFU per L, while DALY-based guidance suggests lower critical concentrations might be warranted in some cases. Furthermore, approximately <10 CFU per mL L. pneumophila may be appropriate for healthcare or susceptible population settings. This analysis underscores the importance of the choice of risk target as well as sampling program considerations when choosing the most appropriate critical concentration for use in public health guidance.


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