The PRA has reacted angrily to assertions that car washes in the UK could harbour Legionnaires’ disease. It followed a warning by a medical expert Dr Tom Makin, senior consultant at Legionella control who advises the Department of Health.

He was responding to the discovery that two men became seriously ill with Legionnaires’ disease after inhaling infected water droplets from separate car washes in Italy, and said the same risk applied to the UK.

“Italy is not the UK,” stressed PRA chairman Brian Madderson. “British drivers can rest assured that the Health and Safety regulations minimise any risk of this occurring in the UK. We have never had a case of legionella in the UK at automated car washes because of the way we disinfect our water systems.

“It is pure nonsense to suggest these bugs exist at UK car washes. I would advise Dr Makin to study the 2013 version of HSE guidance note 274 part 2, together with the 65-page accompanying document regarding control of the bacteria.”

He went on to explain that automated car washes use a variety of methods to ensure that no bacteria are present in the system. They monitor temperatures of stored water on a regular basis; they use thermal disinfection by raising the temperature of the water above 60 degrees Celsius; they clean the systems annually with chemicals such as stabilised chlorine dioxide; and they take a sample of the water before and after these treatments.

“Laboratories have never found a sample containing legionella bacteria at any of the thousands of sites belonging to Car Wash Association or PRA members across the UK,” he stressed.

“A real issue of concern would be a supermarket car park in the summer where trolley hand car washes, often using one cubic metre tanks of water which sit in the sun, with algae breeding at the water line.

“Hand car washes appear to escape regulation. The Environment Agency is not interested in investigating cases of chemicals being poured into water courses, causing pollution in streams and rivers.”