Researchers from the University of Genova in Italy and collaborating universities studied cold and hot water samples at two tertiary care hospitals for a year from faucets used by healthcare professionals for handwashing, surgical washing, and washing of medical equipment. Cold and hot water sampling was carried out first with the aerators in faucets in place to assess the risk at each outlet point and then after disinfecting and flame-sterilizing the outlet point and letting the water run for two minutes to analyze the microbiological features of the plumbing system.
Researchers found the total microbial load was up to 10 times greater when aerators were in place than after they had been sterilized. Their findings show that opportunist micro-organisms like Legionella spp., Acinetobacter spp. and other Gram-negative bacteria were significantly higher at the faucet than in the plumbing system. Throughout the study, researchers consistently noted chlorine levels that were too low and hot water temperatures that were below the minimal temperature needed to prevent the growth of Legionella. Both of these factors promote the growth of waterborne pathogens.
“Aerators are a reservoir for drug-resistant bacteria and a source of infection for patients at risk,” said Maria Luisa Cristina, PhD, a lead author of the study. “Safe water is vital to ensuring patient safety where waterborne infections increase morbidity, mortality, treatment costs, compensation claims and prolong hospital stays.”
Here are tree simple steps to clean the aerators both in home or hospitals:
- Unscrew the aerator with a pair of pliers, but use a small towel or other soft material as a buffer to prevent scratching the metal finish.
- Pull off the rubber washer and pop out the inside parts.
- Use an old toothbrush and perhaps a pick or wooden toothpick to dislodge the rust and rinse it away.
Once reassembled, the faucet now should run like new.