Did You Know You Have to Be Concerned About the Grocery Store Mister?


mister Uh, Oh, a mister

There is evidence that misting systems not properly maintained can harbor Legionella bacterium (Legionnaire Disease), which is very dangerous to people with compromised immune systems.

A Milwaukee family is suing a grocery story, blaming the store’s produce mister for their elderly father’s death from Legionnaire Disease.


Misters in supermarkets were first tied to Legionnaire in the Fall of 1989 when an outbreak occurred and was found in supermarket misters. Winn-Dixie stopped using misters when the discovery was uncovered.

Legionnaire was first discovered in 1976 but is believed to have been noticed prior to this in 1943; it was believed to have been the probable cause of a Philadelphia pneumonia outbreak that year.

The Mayo Clinic says most people become infected when they inhale microscopic water droplets containing legionella bacteria. This might be the spray from a shower, faucet or whirlpool, or water dispersed through the ventilation system in a large building.

Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, including: hot tubs, air conditioners, decorative fountains, swimming pools, physical therapy equipment, plumbing systems, humidifiers in food displays, and mist sprayers in grocery store produce departments.

The bacteria has not been found in cars or window air conditioners. Legionella bacteria can be found in any freshwater environment – such as rivers and lakes – although it is incredibly rare to become infected from these sources because of the low temperatures. Higher temperatures of 68 degrees and more are required for the bacteria to thrive.

People could just as likely contract Legionnaire from droplets in the air as from misters, say most experts. It can travel as far as 4 miles and trying to pinpoint where one contracted the disease is not easy.

Legionnaire is believed to not spread from person-to-person; it is contracted from droplets in the air.

What we do know is that the bacteria that cause Legionnaire Disease have been found in water delivery systems. They can survive in the warm, moist, air conditioning systems of large buildings, including hospitals, sometimes in home plumbing systems. Most cases are caused by the bacteria Legionella pneumophila. The rest of the cases are caused by other Legionella species.

Most infections occur in middle-age or older people. In rare cases, children can get the infection. When they do, the disease is less severe. Most people who are exposed to the bacteria do not contract the disease.


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