In vitro studies were performed to give information about the required metal concentrations in decontaminating Legionella-loaded warm water systems with the electrochemical generation of Ag+ and Cu2+ ions. The influence of Ag and Cu ions, as single compounds and in combination, on the survival of Legionella pneumophila (serogroup 6) was determined in tap water at 45 degrees C. Marked differences were detected in the action of these metals. Ag produced a much stronger inhibition than Cu. No additive effect was demonstrated when using Ag/Cu-combinations in the ratio of 1:10. In this case only the Ag-induced inhibition was detected. After 1 h of incubation at 45 degrees C a concentration of 80 + 800 micrograms/L Ag + Cu was needed to produce the maximal inhibitory effect (a 5 log decrease). An identical effect was seen after exposure to 20 + 200 micrograms/L Ag + Cu in the long-term action (24 h of incubation). The minimum inhibitory concentration after long-term incubation was 5 + 50 micrograms/L Ag + Cu. These metal concentrations produced a 1 log reduction. The in vitro results are discussed under consideration of earlier investigations after metering Ag and Cu into a Legionella-loaded water system and generated the following conclusions: In the beginning highly contaminated water systems at 45 degrees C need concentrations between 40 and 80 micrograms/L Ag + 400 to 800 micrograms/L Cu to kill Legionellas. After effective reduction of Legionella concentration of at least some logarithmic powers a slow constant maintenance concentration of 5 to 20 micrograms/L Ag + 50 to 200 micrograms/L Cu could be applied. At 22 degrees C the in vitro inactivation response is much lower. On the other hand in warm water systems with temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees C lower metal concentrations are sufficient.