Unsafe Plumbing Systems Determined to Have Spread Coronavirus

Health officials have confirmed that inefficient plumbing design played a role in spreading the outbreak of the coronavirus in certain high-rise buildings in Hong Kong. Available information has made clear that air containing infected fecal matter was discharged into separate apartment units as a result of an improperly installed vent pipe, thus transmitting to occupants within those units through inhalation and exposure. In this circumstance, an unskilled building occupant disconnected their vent pipe in an apparent effort to self-refit their plumbing system, which allowed a pathway for infected wastewater to spread through the building through the air.

Although there is potential for the COVID-19 coronavirus to spread in the U.S. through similar means, it is highly unlikely due to U.S. plumbing codes – which enforce that “any modification to a building’s water, waste or vent system must be performed by a qualified professional and necessitates an inspection by a code official.”

Read more on the transmission of coronavirus through plumbing and the necessity of safe piping in The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ “Uniform Codes Spotlight,” written by Pete Demarco, Executive Vice President of Advocacy, Research, and Program Development for IAPMO.