Automobile windshield washer fluid: A potential source of transmission for Legionella

David Otto Schwake, Absar Alum, Morteza Abbaszadegan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Epidemiological evidence suggesting driving cars to be a risk factor for legionellosis has prompted public health studies to investigate vehicle windshield washer fluid as a novel transmission source of this disease. The goal of the current study was to investigate whether or not windshield washer fluid could serve as a potential source of transmission for Legionella. A wide variation in the survival of L. pneumophila was observed when incubated in different washer fluids at 25 and 37°C, however, one brand tested supported Legionella survival similar to or greater than sterilized deionized water. In addition, 1L of tap water contained in a washer fluid reservoir was able to support population growth and survival of Legionella for several months. In a field study examining the windshield washer fluid of 12 elementary school buses, Legionella were detected from 84% of samples at a high concentration of 8.1×104CFU/mL. Culturable cells were also detected in aerosolized washer fluid during washer fluid spray. By demonstrating survival in certain windshield washer fluids, growth within washer fluid reservoirs, and the presence of viable cells in bus washer fluid spray, we have provided evidence suggesting the potential for a novel route of Legionella exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-277
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Automobile
  • Exposure
  • Legionella pneumophila
  • Transmission
  • Washer fluid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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