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Ice Machines are a Breeding Ground for Dangerous Things

Ice machines, whether in our refrigerators, favorite restaurants, hospitals, or airplanes, provide us with refreshing ice for our beverages. However, lurking within that seemingly innocent ice lies the potential for microbial growth. One particular concern is the presence of Legionella, a bacterium responsible for Legionnaires’ disease. Here are some key points:


Biofouling and Legionella:

Biofouling refers to the accumulation of microorganisms (such as bacteria, algae, and fungi) on surfaces.

Legionella can be present in ice machines due to:

Potable Water: The water used to make ice can carry Legionella.

Human Contact: Ice and ice machine surfaces can become contaminated through human touch.

While bacteria struggle to grow in cold conditions, they can survive freezing. When encased in ice, they remain dormant until thawed, potentially releasing into our drinks.

Ice machines create an environment conducive to bacterial growth due to warm compressors that heat incoming water lines.

Healthcare Facilities and Contamination:

In healthcare settings, ice machines are often found on multiple floors, including units serving vulnerable patients.

A study in 2018 found that:

100% of drain pan samples were contaminated with gram-negative bacteria.

52% of ice and/or water chute samples were contaminated.

72% of drain-pan grill samples were also affected.

In a specific case, Legionnaires’ disease was traced back to ice chips as the sole water exposure for a patient who aspirated while sucking on ice to rehydrate.

Filtering and Vulnerability:

Hospital ice machine water supply lines are typically filtered with sediment and carbon filters.

Sediment filters remove rust or iron from the public water supply.

Carbon filters improve taste by removing chlorine, but this leaves the water more susceptible to bacterial contamination.


In summary, while ice machines provide us with cool refreshment, it’s essential to recognize the potential risks associated with biofouling and Legionella. Proper maintenance, regular cleaning, and adherence to water management plans are crucial to minimize these risks and ensure safe ice consumption.


HydroFLOW can do this better than any other system with no changes to plumbing and zero maintenance.


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