Building Drainage Systems

When drainage systems fail, a lot of undesirable effects may follow, from leaks that cause mold to fecal-laden water contaminating groundwater and houses. A study from the Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland found yet another concern we should have about broken or inadequate building drainage. Airflows in pipes can contain aerosolized pathogens and then escape into indoor spaces through faulty junctions or breaks in the pipes. This is the method by which they believe Norovirus transmission occurs. They suggest that the virus uses building drainage systems as a reservoir, and that this mechanism of dispersal may feasibly occur with other aerosolizable pathogens that are common in drainage water (like Clostridium difficile). The researchers also created a drainage model that they were able to propose might have aided in the Amoy Gardens SARS outbreak. Specifically, the seal on a toilet’s U-bend showed the potential of causing bioaerosols by the mechanism they propose. In short, you now have another reason to check your house’s pipes on a regular basis for damage.


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Alex Alexiev

Alex Alexiev is a recent UC Davis graduate with a BS in microbiology working in Jonathan Eisen’s lab on aquariums as part of the microbiology of the built environment.