Legionella pneumophila as a health hazard to miners: A pilot study of water quality and QMRA

Valerie Madera-García, Alexis L. Mraz, Nicolás López-Gálvez, Mark H. Weir, James Werner, Paloma I. Beamer, Marc P. Verhougstraete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Legionella pneumophila (L. pneumophila), the causative agent of legionellosis, is an aquatic bacterium that grows in warm water. Humans are only presented with a health risk when aerosolized water containing L. pneumophila is inhaled. In mining operations, aerosolized water is used as dust control and as part of the drilling operations, a currently ignored exposure route. This study characterized L. pneumophila concentrations in the mine's non-potable water and the relationship between L. pneumophila and chlorine concentrations. These concentrations informed a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model to estimate the infection risk to miners exposed to aerosolized water containing L. pneumophila. Fourteen water samples were collected from seven locations at a mine and analyzed for temperature, pH, chlorine, and L. pneumophila serogroup. Most samples (93%) tested positive for L. pneumophila cells. The faucet from the sprinkler system on the adit level (entrance to the underground mine levels) showed the highest concentration of L. pneumophila (8.35 × 104 MPN/L). Disability adjusted life years (DALYs) were estimated in the QMRA model and showed that the risk for all miners was significantly lower (p < 0.0001) with the ventilation system on than when the system was off. Our study showed that the use of a ventilation system at the adit level of the mine reduced the risk of infection with aerosolized L. pneumophila.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1528
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019


  • Air quality ventilation
  • DALYs (disability adjusted life years)
  • Legionella pneumophila
  • Mining safety
  • QMRA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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