The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) are urging all health care facilities to exercise restraint in response to a study that showed the potential for a higher occurrence of Legionella spp. in electronic water faucets compared with manually operated units.

A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showed that electronic faucets are more likely than manual faucets to be contaminated with unacceptably high levels of bacteria, including Legionella spp. The study found that 50 percent of water cultures taken from 20 electronic, infrared-activated faucets revealed the presence of Legionella spp. compared with 15 percent of cultures taken from 20 manual faucets. Water from the electronic fixtures had a higher proportion of other bacteria — 26 percent compared with 13 percent for the manual units.

In a regulatory advisory last month, ASHE warned against hospitals removing electronic faucets from their facilities because of the study.

ASHE and APIC issued a statement that supported the use of the Infection Control Risk Assessment to identify and mitigate infection risks that may occur during design and construction. The statement also said the 2010 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities permit electronic (sensor-activated) faucets.

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