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There’s More Than Gas in Your Car–There’s Bacteria!

Posted on September 09, 2014
by Wendy Stackhouse

I know, your car is clean. There’s no trash on the floor of the back seat, you don’t let the kids eat french fries in the carseats and coffee has never sullied your carpets. But there still could be bacteria lurking in your car.

The bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ Disease can be a deadly threat. They are found in water systems and spread via water vapor. It’s easy to imagine being exposed to legionella bacteria from the water system on a cruise ship, like the one on which Legionnaires’ Disease was first discovered. It is also commonly found in swimming pools and hot tubs and power plant cooling towers have been implicated as well.

In an article in the Washington Post, however, a new potential location for legionella bactera was found by Arizona State University researchers: the windshield washer fluid reservoir in your car.


Just the other day, I used the washer fluid with my side window down. I thought, oh, wait, I might get some in the car, but it didn’t come in. Still…droplets which could be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria are a bigger deal!

The scientists took samples of washer fluids which contained methanol and fluids that did not contain methanol–methanol kills bacteria but it is used in washer fluid to keep it from freezing, not needed in a warm climate like Arizona or California, typically. Legionella bacteria thrived in the methanol-free washer fluid.

All the samples were taken from school buses. Yeah, again.

As they said in the Washington Post, “Microbes are everywhere.” But there are places where it’s way too easy for those microbes to invade our bodies. I’d hate to think I could have given myself Legionnaires’ Disease the other day. I’d better go see what kind of washer fluid my mom put in the car before she sent it out here. At least it gets cold where she lives!


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