The importance of personal hygiene has come into the forefront with the COVID-19 pandemic. The constantly-repeated mantra, “wash your hands,” emphasizes this simple act as essential to stopping the spread of the virus. But without plumbing in good working order, washing your hands – as well as performing other vital hygienic practices – is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Now more than ever, people are thinking about the many ways in which modern plumbing promotes good health, both on the personal level and for society in general.
How modern plumbing helps prevent the spread of disease
The rampage of infectious diseases during the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to innovations in the design and technology of bathrooms in American homes. Writing for CityLab, journalist Elizabeth Yuko notes, “The modern bathroom developed alongside outbreaks of tuberculosis, cholera and influenza; its standard fixtures, wallcoverings, floorings, and finishes were implemented, in part, to promote health and hygiene in the home at a time of widespread public health concerns.”
As a result, the wood paneling and furniture-like plumbing fixtures common in Victorian-era bathrooms were replaced with easy-to-clean tile and linoleum flooring, and porcelain fixtures. But even before materials that lent themselves to being effectively sanitized were used, municipal plumbing systems themselves made possible the sanitary living and work environments we take for granted (until something goes wrong, that is). We depend on fresh water entering and waste water draining or flushing out with no effort on our part other than turning a tap or pushing down a lever.
However, many municipalities throughout the world do not have well-engineered plumbing systems. The SARS outbreak of 2003 spread through Amory Gardens – a large apartment complex in Hong Kong – because of poor plumbing. According to reports, high concentrations of viral aerosols in building plumbing were drawn into apartment bathrooms through floor drains. The initial exposures occurred in these bathrooms. More than 300 residents were infected; 42 died.
Plumbing is also suspected to have played a role in the initial spread of COVID-19. Plumbing industry veteran Charles Lee Clifton provides his insights in Building Safety Journal. Referring to Wuhan, China – recognized as the source of the outbreak – Clifton writes, “Although investigations are still ongoing, according to news reports there are indications that the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus may have spread through a defective plumbing system.
“It is unlikely that the COVID-19 coronavirus would spread in a high-rise building in the United States especially with a modern plumbing code being used, such as the International Plumbing Code (IPC). The intent of the IPC is to establish minimum standards to provide a reasonable level of safety, health, property protection and public welfare by regulating and controlling the design, construction, installation, quality of materials, location, operation and maintenance or use of plumbing equipment and systems. That’s why it is also important to maintain our buildings with well-trained craftsmen and certified inspectors.”
While many now question the safety of certain resources and foods, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reassures the public that drinking water supplies in the United States are safe from COVID-19, and people can use and drink tap water as usual. You can also safely use tap water to wash your hands, which is one of the best methods to keep the virus at bay.
Saving money while sheltering in place
Stay-at-home orders have been lifted, and businesses are starting to reopen. For those still at home, our California colleagues at Mike Diamond offer the following advice for keeping your water bill low. After all, the more you and other members of your household are home, the more water you use.
Turn off the water while washing your hands – Following the CDC’s advice by washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds is a good thing. To avoid higher water bills, turn the faucet off while washing. You should only run the water twice while washing your hands: once when you first lather up, and again when you rinse. Only run the water for as long as both of those actions take – which should be only two seconds.
Mike Diamond’s article on the topic breaks it down as follows:
“Let’s say you wash your hands an average of 8 times per day. If you leave your water running for the additional, unnecessary 18 seconds every time you wash, then you’re wasting 144 seconds, or 2 minutes and 22 seconds, worth of water. An average bathroom sink faucet uses 1-3 gallons of water per minute while running. Therefore, by leaving your water running while you wash your hands, you’re wasting 2 to 6 gallons of water per day.”
Get leaks repaired – Issues that go unnoticed while you’re at work all day may be more obvious now – like that dripping faucet in the guest bathroom. Like leaving the water run while you’re washing your hands, steady leaks drive up the water bill. Depending on the leak’s location, it can eventually damage drywall and flooring, and create conditions for mold growth.
Plumbers need to stay safe
Just like everyone else, we professional plumbers are taking all necessary precautions on a daily basis to stay healthy. By doing so, we not only keep ourselves and our families safe, we’re also protecting our clients and community. We follow CDC guidelines and practice enhanced safety measures during service calls to our residential and commercial clients.
Just as Central Floridians have trusted our Adams and Son Plumbing family for full-service plumbing since 1958, you can trust us to keep the health and well-being of your family first and foremost. A state-certified plumbing contractor, we have over three generations of master plumbing experience. Contact us for dependable top-quality repair, installation and emergency services.