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In late 2016, there were 36 threats in Melbourne CBD alone of legionella risk in homes. Why? Because of poor plumbing practices. Unfortunately, there are still cases of untrained and unqualified tradespeople and contractors ripping off consumers. Not only do these practices negatively affect your wallet, but they also have some drastic health consequences. Although many of these outbreaks are small and can go undetected, it’s important to remember that plumbing is the solution to these problems, and is not a health risk in itself. We’ve put together some of the most common health risks that are associated with poor plumbing practices – and how you can avoid them.
False ‘energy efficient’ warm water systems
Gaining popularity in recent years, warm water systems store water at lower temperatures than traditional units. This means they can achieve a six-star energy efficient rating as they rely on solar-powered boosters to heat your water on the way to your shower. However, the cooler storage temperature of between 25 to 40 degrees can encourage the growth of legionella bacteria, while solar energy does not always achieve high enough temperatures to kill it off. This bacteria can be fatal once it becomes airborne. Thus, it’s no surprise that both Queensland and South Australia have reported legionella deaths from faulty warm water systems in recent years. In order to avoid this, make sure you enlist a reliable plumber that specialises in hot water service, repair and installation. You want to invest in a good quality, trade approved hot water system.
The proof is in the plumbing; low-level lead contamination can still be found in some Australian homes due to poor plumbing practices. The findings of a large-scale study on water samples from kitchen taps in New South Wales found that brass tap fittings are the most likely source of lead leaking into the home’s water supply. Moreover, it was found that lead from brass kitchen taps can enter water further down the supply chain.
A neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to children, it is paramount that you are aware of the possible lead contamination in your household. One way to combat this is to attach lead filters to your taps or switch to stainless steel. As well as this, always make sure you enlist a reputable, certified plumber for all your household needs.
The incorrect disposal and handling of sewage can also pose a serious health risk to you and your household. Naturally, disease-causing germs can be spread from sewage if proper toilet hygiene is not practiced or if sewage is not disposed of properly. Furthermore, if a sewage disposal system is not properly maintained it will not be able to get rid of the sewage safely. For a sewage system to be properly maintained, all faulty (blocked, damaged, broken or worn-out) parts must be mended as soon as possible after they stop working correctly.
The following are some diseases that can be contracted due to sewage problems:
- hepatitis A
Diseases caused by parasites:
- dwarf tapeworm infection
- threadworm infection
- hookworm infection
Common sewage problems to be wary of:
- Sewage or effluent collecting in pools as a result of an overflowing sewage lagoon or broken sewage pipes. This sewage and effluent contains disease-causing germs and parasites and allows mosquitoes to breed
- Uncovered or broken septic tanks which allow effluent to escape, meaning that people or pets can directly be exposed
- Blocked, overflowing toilets which make it easy for children to come into contact with germs
- Leach drains from septic tanks which are too close to drinking water supplies so that effluent soaks through the soil into the water supply
If your plumbing systems aren’t installed correctly, you may be at risk of becoming injured. For example, if tempering valves are removed and replaced with flexi-connections, this may allow scalding water to be supplied directly to all outlets. Burns as a result of poor plumbing practices can be incredibly serious, so it’s absolutely worthwhile that you do your research when enlisting a plumber.
You might think it’s okay to skimp on a plumber or get a friend to patch up a plumbing problem – but think again. Don’t wait until it’s too late; be sure to call the professionals as soon as you think something is amiss.