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Windshield cleaner tests positive for Legionnaires' Disease

PHOENIX -- Your windshield washer fluid could kill you.

Arizona State University Ph.D student Otto Schwake discovered the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires' Disease thrives in the cleaning fluid while testing a fleet of school buses in Maricopa County.

"Eighty percent of the buses we sampled were positive," said Schwake. "We've almost a billion legionella in just one bus, so the numbers and positives are a lot higher than I thought they would be."

Schwake said he started the project after reading results of epidemiology studies which credibly links vehicles and Legionnaires' Disease.

Legionella, the bacteria that leads to Legionnaires' Disease, is a water-born pathogen. If it is turned into a mist or vapor and inhaled a person could contract a potentially deadly form of pneumonia.

Parents should not panic about allowing their children onto school buses, the level of risk has not changed and the research is in its infancy.

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About the Author


Sandra moved from the small border city of Yuma, Arizona to study Broadcast Journalism at Arizona State University in the late 90s. Since graduating, she's worked at several local TV stations including Univision, Fox 10 and 3TV.

Working at KTAR, has allowed her the opportunity to cover major national news events, including Presidential visits, the Tucson Tragedy and the Wallow fire.

When Sandra isn't covering breaking news or behind a microphone in the studio, she's probably at home with her best friend Mark and her two dogs, Lily and Lola.

Sandra enjoys cooking and admits to enjoying "really bad" reality T.V. She also enjoys spending quiet time at home with people she loves, playing a little poker and traveling.

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