Can The Novel Coronavirus Spread Through Building Pipes?

The coronavirus outbreak engulfed China in November, and before anyone could put safeguards in place, the virus spread its wings across the world.

The virus—including its long-term implications and symptoms—are still being researched. According to health professionals in Hong Kong, COVID-19 can even spread through plumbing systems. This is especially true for high-rise residential and commercial buildings that share plumbing networks.

How Do Plumbing Systems In High-Rise Buildings Work?

To learn about how COVID-19 could be spreading through plumbing systems, it is vital to understanding how these systems work in high-rise buildings.

Tall residential and commercial buildings present unique plumbing challenges. The toilets in these high-rise buildings discharge wastewater and fecal matter into a vertical wastewater pipe, which is also called a drainage stack.

As the wastewater descends, the air ahead of it is pushed so the waste can pass through. The wastewater is followed by more air from behind, creating positive and negative air pressures in the drainage system.

There is another pipe that runs alongside the drainage stack, called the vent stack. This pipe is designed to introduce air into the drainage stack at every fifth floor to curb any pressure changes within the pipe that could affect the seals and introduce contaminated air.

How Can COVID-19 Spread Through Plumbing Systems?

As with Hong Kong, where people living ten floors apart got infected, there is potential for the virus to replicate this behavior in other parts of the world. The plumbing systems in high-rise buildings are often densely connected to the same wastewater channels.

Contaminated air can freely move in and out of your living spaces when the U-beds within the connected plumbing systems get dry. Moreover, the U-bends are prone to pressure surges from being overused when everyone’s at home. Hence, the work from home scenario can be counterproductive if COVID-19 finds its way through the plumbing system in a high-rise building.

If you live in a high-rise building, in any part of the world, you need to be extra careful about bathroom use. You need to ensure that no unexplainable foul smells are rising from your washing areas, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Foul smells are an indication of a faulty and vulnerable plumbing system. You should also make sure that all of your toilets and sinks have functioning U-bends and that there’s no free flow of air inside the pipes except the vents.


If you’re looking for plumbing experts to help resolve issues in your bathroom and the rest of the plumbing system, get in touch with us at Pro Serve Plumbing. We offer a range of plumbing services, including plumbing leak repair, sewer line repair and detection, slab leak repair, and drain cleaning in Fort Worth, Texas. You can visit our website for more details!