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Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, IAPMO Issues Statement on Plumbing Systems; ANSI Members Offer Recommendations


2/20/2020

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), a member and audited designator of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), has released an explanatory document on how the coronavirus was likely transmitted between apartment units in a high rise building.

New findings reveal that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)—a public health emergency of international concern—was able to spread through plumbing systems in Hong Kong. IAPMO's statement, which highlights the importance of proper plumbing design, comes shortly after health officials in Hong Kong reported that two residents living on different floors of the same high-rise tower had contracted the virus.

"Coronavirus in Plumbing Systems: How did the outbreak occur in Hong Kong and is there a risk in the United States?," explains that high-rise buildings present unique challenges in plumbing design, as pipe design issues and depleted trap seals can accelerate the spread of contaminated air and aerosols within buildings and infect people with the coronavirus. Pete DeMarco, IAPMO Executive Vice President of Advocacy, Research, and Program Development, authored the document.

IAPMO notes the parallels to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which also spread and infected tenants in apartments in Hong Kong. SARS—which infected more than 8,000 people during the outbreak—is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in parts of that country.

IAPMO asserts that a 2016 Hong Kong Housing Department policy change, which allowed tenants in certain high-rise apartments to alter the pipe design in their bathrooms without requiring an inspection by a plumbing official lead to "causing the problem that might have helped spread COVID-19."

While the coronavirus could spread in the United States in a similar manner as Hong Kong, IAPMO confirms that it would be an unlikely circumstance, due to U.S. plumbing codes and building design.

"Both the SARS and the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreaks in Hong Kong illustrate the importance of proper plumbing design and practice in keeping building residents safe from disease and the profound problems that can develop when unqualified individuals decide to work on building water systems," according to IAPMO.

Read the IAPMO statement in its entirety and read more about plumbing and the spread of SARS in the World Health Organization’s Health Aspects of Plumbing.

ANSI Members Publish Resources and Recommendations

In response to the virus, several other ANSI members have published resources and recommendations, including ANSI member and accredited standards developer, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) Center for Biocide Chemistries (CBC). ACC has compiled a list of products that have been pre-approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against emerging enveloped viral pathogens, and can be used during the coronavirus outbreak.

Additionally, ANSI member the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published an overview of the coronavirus, several health safety recommendations, and information for travel amid the outbreak.

For the latest details on the coronavirus and the outbreak in the U.S., visit the CDC website.

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ANSI Focus on Services Standards