What you need to know about Insurance and Legionnaires' Disease

plantSince July 10th, seven people in New York have died due to an airborne respiratory disease likely contracted by simply walking down the street. Legionnaires’ disease isn’t new. In 1976, it picked up its name at an American Legion convention that suffered an outbreak. In 2013, there were 4,548 cases reported in the US. Legionella bacteria can grow in air conditioning systems, whirlpool baths, or exposed pipes, meaning even breathing the vapors from a building’s cooling tower while walking past can put you at risk.

Aside from the risk of contracting the disease in everyday city living, there is also a serious liability exposure for commercial real estate owners. Most liability policies exclude pollution, and many add an extra exclusion for bacteria. Five water cooling towers tested positive for the disease in South Bronx, where this summer’s outbreak originated. Though prevention is as simple as disinfecting the towers, business owners across the country are exposed to the liability resulting from legionella bacteria growing in their air conditioning units, pipes, and whirlpools. Preventative measures are crucial, but the sheer number of potential contamination points makes insurance coverage for Legionnaries’ disease imperative for many businesses.

So what’s the solution? Talk to your Swingle Collins insurance agent about your current insurance program to make sure you’re covered. It may be time to consider adding a pollution liability policy to your program. Your Swingle Collins agent can help prevent your business from falling prey to Legionnaries’ disease.