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Chlorination of Water Supplies to Control Legionella May Corrode the Pipes

Philip B. Mead, MD; James M. Lawson; J. W. Patterson, PhD
JAMA. 1988;260(15):2216. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410150064019.
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To the Editor.—  We read with interest the article by Helms et al1 that describes continuous hyperchlorination of a hospital water system and wish to comment on their observations in view of our own experience with this technique.Following two major outbreaks of legionnaires' disease at this institution in 1980, continuous hyperchlorination of the hospital's hot water system was begun in 1981, with attempts made to maintain chlorine levels of 1.5 mg/L of free chlorine. Although Legionella could no longer be cultured from hot water samples, by 1984 major corrosion damage to the copper plumbing system had occurred, resulting in unacceptable maintenance costs, disruption of patient care activities, and concern about disintegration of the entire water distribution system.An environmental engineer (J.W.P.) was consulted and documented two different types of copper corrosion: (1) a slow, uniform corrosion that occurred when chlorine levels were low and the water pH somewhat acidic


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