Backflow Links to Stomach Bugs

Monday morning, and across the UK there will inevitably plenty of unfortunate individuals calling in sick to work with what they can only describe as a ‘dodgy tummy’. In some cases it might be food poisoning, perhaps IBS, but in most cases, the cause will simply be unknown.

However, a new study referenced in the Telegraph today has demonstrated a link between leaking pipes and mystery stomach bugs. From time to time, most of us will contract stomach bugs, and more often than not, we find it difficult to pinpoint the cause. Thanks to this study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, we may now have a possible reason.

Pipe Leak

It would initially seem as though the many instances of leaking pipes throughout the UK are forcing out water at such a rate that no contaminants could flow back down the pipe. However as soon as the pressure changes and this flow stops, a suction effect is created, allowing harmful contaminants such as viruses and bacteria to flow back into the water supply.

We have talked previously about this effect, known as ‘backflow’. This harmful process, where contaminants are sucked back into the water supply can contaminate drinking water for anyone who uses that supply. The easiest way to ensure that the water supply does not become contaminated is with a back-flow prevention device such as a weir break. Our own Weir Break 5 is incredibly effective at preventing backflow, even for category 5 locations such as those that deal with serious health risks such as human waste.

“It’s not feasible for the water industry to stop all leaks, and most of the time, leaks don’t pose a risk,” Professor Joby Boxall. who worked on the study, told the Telegraph “This is why the water industry is now focusing on preventing the pressure changes which enable contaminants to enter the system, rather than eliminating the leaks through which they enter.”

So could it be that what we know of as a ‘dodgy tummy’ is really a result of the contamination of our water supply through a lack of back-flow prevention? If our water supply is indeed so often compromised, action surely needs to be taken to prevent pipe leaks from causing such widespread contamination.

If we can continue to work to prevent backflow and the associated risk to our water supply then hopefully “it must have been something I ate” will become a far less commonly heard complaint.

Picture by Harry Wood

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