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Legionnaires' disease risk in wiper fluid

Date: 23 June 2010

Fleet managers should ensure screenwash is put in wiper fluid after a survey showed those not using it are at higher risk of getting legionnaires' disease.

The warning came after health experts discovered professional drivers were five times more likely to be infected with the potentially deadly bug - found in warm, stagnant water.

The research, carried out by the Health Protection Agency found traces of the legionella bacterium in one in five cars that did not have screenwash in their wiper water, but in no cars that did.

Motorists are now being urged to make sure they use the additive, which kills the bug.

It is feared that around 20% of disease cases could come from this type of exposure.

"Not adding screenwash to windscreen wiper fluid is a previously unidentified risk factor and appears to be strongly associated with community-acquired sporadic cases of legionnaires' disease," said the report.

The study found that van drivers, motorists who regularly drive long hours for work or through industrial zones and those who often open their car windows were higher risk groups.

Last year, there were 345 cases in England and Wales, although some infections were caught abroad.

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