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New Study Finds Most Cooling Towers Test Positive for Legionella

EMSL Analytical, Inc. offers PCR and traditional culturing methods to quickly and accurately identify the pathogen that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Cinnaminson, NJ – WEBWIRE

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the results of a new study about the prevalence of Legionella bacteria in cooling towers across the country. According to reports, CDC researchers found that 84% of the 196 cooling towers tested for Legionella DNA came back positive. Viable Legionella was confirmed in approximately 40% of the cooling towers.

Legionella is spread to humans when they inhale contaminated droplets of water. People can then develop Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, especially if they have a weakened or suppressed immune system. This is why it is important to test water sources that could harbor the bacteria. These sources typically include cooling towers in addition to potable water systems, hot tubs, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems and decorative fountains.

Regular maintenance of cooling towers and other manmade water sources is essential for controlling the growth of Legionella in these systems. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), these systems should be properly monitored and maintained according to manufacturers’ recommendations to prevent buildup of scale, sediment and bio-fouling.

“Proactive testing can help prevent outbreaks of this potentially fatal disease or pinpoint the source of an outbreak if one has already occurred,” said Christopher Goulah, Ph.D., Legionella Technical Manager at EMSL Analytical, Inc. “Testing is the only way to know for sure if Legionella is present in a cooling tower or other source. At EMSL, we offer traditional culturing methods and advanced Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing methods. PCR tests are an excellent method for rapid results, but they do not indicate whether the bacteria are alive or not. This is why traditional culturing methods remain the gold standard, although the two testing methods are often used together. We offer all of the sampling supplies necessary and have 16 laboratories that have received the CDC’s Environmental Legionella Isolation Techniques Evaluation (ELITE) Certificate of Proficiency.”

EMSL also offers a complimentary Legionella Pocket Guide. It provides an overview of Legionella, discusses sampling techniques, ways to test for it in the laboratory, and emergency remediation. To request a copy, please visit:

To learn more about Legionella or other microbial testing services, please visit or, email  or call (800) 220-3675.

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.

EMSL Analytical, Inc. is one of the leading testing laboratories with 40 locations throughout the United States and Canada. EMSL is a nationally recognized and locally focused provider specializing in fast laboratory results for mold, bacteria, Legionella, USP 797, pathogens, asbestos, lead, soot, char & ash from fires, VOC’s, odors, radon, formaldehyde, indoor air quality, microbiology, environmental, industrial hygiene, radiological, food, beverage & consumer products and material testing services for the identification of unknown substances. EMSL services both professionals and the general public. EMSL maintains an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations as well as state and federal regulating bodies including, but not limited to A2LA, AIHA LAP, LLC. (AIHA EMLAP, AIHA IHLAP, AIHA ELLAP), NVLAP, CDC ELITE, CPSC, CA ELAP, NY ELAP, TX DOH, NJDEP and multiple other state accrediting agencies. Please visit our website at for a complete listing of accreditations.  In addition, EMSL carries a wide range of Sampling Equipment and Investigative Products for environmental professionals.

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 cooling tower
 potable water
 drinking water

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