Do ice machines spread legionnaires’ disease?

Do ice machines spread legionnaires’ disease?

by | Jun 25, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

Given that the legionella virus is only active between the temperatures of 20oC and 45oC, it seems reasonable to assume that, if you use an ice machine – or have an ice machine or cool water dispenser integrated into your fridge/freezer – you ought to be safe from the bacteria. 

However, Legionella is merely dormant at low temperatures, and as soon as the ice thaws, it becomes active again. Given the mechanical nature of ice machines, any water held in pipes positioned close to the generator could be stored at an increased temperature that allows legionella to become active. 

In 2013, a patient died at a hospital in Pittsburgh in the US as the result of contracting legionnaires’ disease from legionella bacteria in an ice machine. The patient had choked on an ice chip which enabled the bacteria to enter his lungs. Two other patients also contracted the disease, and a further outbreak in a hospital in Brisbane, Australia was discovered to have its origins in an ice machine. 

So the simple answer is: yes, ice machines do spread legionnaires’ disease. 

How to prevent Legionnaires’ disease in ice machines

Any equipment that uses water needs to be regularly checked, cleaned, descaled and disinfected, and this includes ice machines. It is recommended that you dismantle the parts to do a thorough clean at least once a year in order to minimise risks. 

As this is drinking water, be extremely careful about the chemicals you use to clean the piping and elements, and flush thoroughly to ensure traces of both the chemicals and the bacteria have gone. A 2017 academic study published in the Open Forum Infectious Diseases concluded that: “Manual interventions have the ability to work, but need to be strictly followed and maintained. Continuous disinfection with Monochloramine was most effective as preventing Legionella colonization and was easiest to maintain.” 

If you have any concerns about ice machines or any aspect of your water system, contact us to arrange for a risk assessment or testing

Legionella and Water Hygiene Blog Posts

Legionella and Landlords

Being a landlord comes with many responsibilities and legal obligations, although what these are will depend on if you are a residential or commercial landlord. An area of care that seems to be unclear for many residential landlords is around the...

Legionella written scheme of control

In a nutshell, a written scheme of control is a comprehensive risk management document identifying measures taken to control your water systems and reduce the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria. It is also used as a record of any and all actions...

What is the most common way of contracting legionella?

The bacterium legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as ponds, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. However, the conditions in these sources are very rarely optimum for the bacteria to thrive, so it is uncommon for...

Water Hygiene Services

Risk Assessments

All water systems require an risk assessment.

Remedial Works

Reduce your legionella risks all in one place.

Legionella Testing

Legionella and water quality testing.

Tank Cleaning

Water tank cleaning for all shapes and sizes.

Legionella Training

Flexible E-learning courses, duration 2-3hrs.


New mains, tank or full system chlorinations.


Let the specialists control & management your risk.


Specialist, professional, experienced advice.

Why do so many choose uRisk?

25 Years Experience

Over 25 years of water hygiene and legionella control experience.

Customer Service Excellence

Friendly and simple advice by phone, email & online at your convenience.

City & Guilds Qualified

All staff are trained water hygiene consultants and engineers.

Nationwide Coverage

With engineers located all across the UK, we’re never too far away.

UKAS Accredited Testing

Our labs are UKAS approved providing you with quality assurance.

Full Compliance Services

Your one stop shop for legionella control, no need to go elsewhere.