This glue-like mixture of bacteria, fungi, amoebas, and other microorganisms, lives in some of the 6 million miles of plumbing that support drinking, sanitation, hygiene, cooling, and heating systems in US buildings. You might have felt it as well. If you haven’t brushed your teeth for a while and you’ve felt a slimy film on your teeth, that’s biofilm. This substance forms anywhere there are microbes and water, since it protects them from disinfectants in the water.
This allows deadly waterborne pathogens such as the bacteria called Legionella to grow, escape into the air and kill thousands each year.
Over 90% of all deaths and the majority of hospitalizations from waterborne diseases are caused by just three airborne pathogens that prosper in biofilms.
How can we prevent this disease?
Over 7 million waterborne illnesses occur each year, resulting in over 600,000 annual visits to emergency rooms, 118,000 hospitalizations, and 6,630 deaths.
The most common one was Otitis externa, the swimmer’s ear, accounting for 4.7 million or 65% of annual waterborne illnesses and 20% of hospitalizations. The second most common was Norovirus infections, which cause vomiting and diarrhea, with 1.3 million cases, followed by the diarrheal disease giardiasis with just over 400,000 annual cases.
Biofilm-associated pathogens are responsible for the highest number of hospitalizations and deaths, despite the fact that they are less frequent.
disease causes lung, skin, and soft tissue infections that can be hard to control. Also called NTM, it was the most deadly of the three, causing 51,400 hospitalizations (44%) and 3,800 deaths (57%) a year.
Legionella bacteria, responsible for outbreaks of the pneumonia-type illness called Legionnaires’ disease and a mild flu-like illness called Pontiac fever, caused 995 deaths (15%) each year.
Pseudomonas pneumonia was responsible for 15,500 hospitalizations and 730 deaths each year.
How do people come in contact with these airborne diseases?
It’s usually through showerheads, building cooling towers, and decorative outdoor fountains, among other sources.
Understanding how the home plumbing system operates and the journey the water goes through before coming into one’s household is important. The materials that make up the plumbing and the way the water is distributed throughout the house play a big role.
Steps to take
Biofilms prosper when water taps are not turned on for long periods of time and the water sits still within the pipes. In case a faucet or showerhead has not been used for a week or so, flush that plumbing before using it again. Run cold water for two minutes, then switch the faucet to hot until the water warms.
with information from: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/16/health/waterborne-diseases-cdc-study-wellness/index.html