Waiting in the wings of the novel coronavirus, is Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia that can be spread by bacteria in water. You may not have read much about it yet, but scientists and health experts are warning that more reports of this sporadic disease may soon hit the headlines.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by inhaling water droplets that contain the Legionella pneumophilia bacteria. This spread of the disease can be reduced by “regular maintenance, cleaning and disinfection of water and air conditioning systems to minimize the growth of the legionella bacterium,” according to the World Health Organization.
Lidor Zabari, an Israeli entrepreneur, has been trying to promote Legionnaires’ disease prevention for over four years.
Zabari is the founder of Safe Shower, a company on a mission to save lives by making shower water safe from Legionnaires’ disease. He says his product is “a game-changer. It doesn’t need maintenance. It can be added to every household.”
In 2020, Safe Shower’s device was chosen as one of 50 promising inventions by Blue Tulip Awards.
The Safe Shower shower head looks like any other. But Zabari tells NoCamels that the parts of his device, a patent-based shower head that minimizes the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, includes an innovative continuous disinfection unit atop the shower head.
The company is also working on a UVC LED-based product with a tiny 30 millimeter disinfection unit.
Zabari’s name is not a household one just yet. But Covid-19’s aftermath may change that very soon.
Global outbreaks of the novel coronavirus forced the closing of public buildings, hotels and work places the world over. With vaccines now underway and countries beginning to reopen after lockdown, “buildings unoccupied or under-used during the prolonged lockdown pose a risk, through stagnating water in devices or piping systems, of providing conditions where harmful bacteria, including Legionella, can proliferate,” reads a report about the increased risk of Legionella pneumonia after COVID-19 lockdowns.
In May 2020, The New York Times ran a huge feature article on a luxury hotel in Barcelona that continued to employ a maintenance guy to turn on and off 1,400 taps and avoid Legionnaires’ disease. The Barcelona hotel’s decision to keep one member on staff showed the need for ensuring infrastructures remain safe to the public.
NSF International, a global public health organization supporting businesses to develop, implement and maintain health-related best practices, invited Israel’s Zabari to speak about his work at its Legionella Conference.
And even with these accolades, Zabari feels his idea for how to ward off Legionnaires’ disease is still in a battle for public approval.
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“Every other entrepreneur would have given up already. I registered my patent in 2016. Four years later and I still am without sales. It is a long and hard process,” he tells NoCamels. “At the beginning, I was treated as the court jester. Now I’m starting to get interest and traction. My goal is to help make this place a better world for others. When I know I can save lives, I won’t allow myself to give up.”
Before the public is ready for a new idea, it is often ridiculed. In fact, there are numerous stories of entrepreneurs and companies advised not to continue with their ideas or products because they seemed silly or impractical. Google, Mark Zuckerberg, Henry Ford, were all told to try a different route but stuck to their guns.
For Zabari, winning over the world to understand that Legionnaires’ disease can be kept at bay with a simple shower head has been an uphill battle.
Zabari became an expert on Legionnaires’ disease by accident. While he has always worked in health-related and public safety roles, it was during his role as an environmental health inspector at the Ministry of Health that he learned about this infection.
He had been put in charge, among other things, for the swimming pool sector. He quickly learned the Legionella pneumophilia bacteria epidemiology and “how it hides from chlorine.” He says he also learned the flow rate of water and the water chlorination process.
“It was a mix of curiosity and my passion for public safety that led me to research this disease,” says Zabari, who today gives lectures in Israel and abroad to education institutions and water systems management on the nature of Legionnaires’ disease.
He tells NoCamels that Safe Shower can be used in hospitals, hotels, at home, in and just about any public institution. He says his goal and passion has always been to improve health and wellbeing and creates new ways for improving healthcare.
And now, Zabari, is hoping that the time has come for his own innovation to take the spotlight.
“My goal is to help make a better world for others, a safer place,” says Zabari. “I believe Safe Shower is the future.”
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com