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Doing the rounds big time right now is a story about how a car’s windscreen wiper water can increase your risk for Legionnaire’s Disease – an illness you don’t hear much about these days, but still one to avoid (because it can kill you). So if you don’t know anything about it, Legionnaire’s Disease is caused by a bacterium with an innocent-sounding name (Legionella – the word conjures up nice things in my mind, like Cinderella or Nigella… as in Lawson, of course). But don’t be fooled. Legionella is a very nasty bacterium indeed, especially if you’re unlucky enough to breath it in, which is when it can cause pneumonia.

Legionella is also found in warm, stagnant water – think air conditioning units, communal showers etc – where it breeds and, I assume, escapes into the surrounding air. Eughhh.

So what’s the link with windscreen wipers? According to a report published in the European Journal of Epidemiology written by Health Protection Agency researchers, if you don’t add screenwash to your windscreen wiper water, you could end up among the estimated 20 percent of people who contract Legionnaire’s Disease from windscreen wiper water each year in the UK.

Well when you think of it, it makes sense. The water you put in your windscreen wiper reservoir (if that’s the correct term) may sit there for weeks or even months on end, depending on how often you drive your car (and how often you squirt water onto your windscreen to keep it clean). And when your car is running, it heats the water – in other words, a breeding ground for Legionella. But adding screenwash to the water doesn’t just keep your windscreen cleaner and less streaky, it also helps kill bacteria.

But before all you riskfactorphobic drivers out there start freaking out and buying screenwash in bulk, rest assured that your chance of getting Legionnaire’s Disease from your windscreen wiper water – or anything else, for that matter – is pretty slim. According to the BBC’s health news, there were 345 cases in England and Wales last year. Around a third of those are thought to have contracted the disease in another country. That leaves 230, 20 percent of which leaves 46. Now I have absolutely no idea how many people don’t use screenwash in their windscreen wipe water but, even if we say half of all the drivers in the country, the number still runs into the millions.

There again, 46 people were unlucky enough to have contracted Legionnaire’s Disease by breathing in bacteria squirted out with their windscreen wiper water last year. And I guess if it can be prevented with the simple addition of a bit of screenwash (my husband uses washing-up liquid – says it does the job just as well), then why the hell wouldn’t you?