History 101

Plumbing history, really?  Oh yes, really!

Plumbing happens to be one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in the history of mankind. In fact, plumbing has done more for our public health than any medical discovery or vaccine. Not so long ago, plumbers were seen as important as doctors.  Those of us who are privileged enough to have plumbing in our homes and community take plumbing for granted. We tend to focus on luxurious fixtures and conveniences offered by plumbers and new plumbing products. We don’t think much about the dangers of plumbing until a community water system is contaminated, a sewage spill into a river causes a disease outbreak or a home blows up from a water heater. These plumbing failures lead to sickness, the loss of property and sometimes the loss of life. Fortunately, most of us enjoy the great benefits of adequate plumbing and we should all understand how important it is to our society and how privileged we are to have it.

“PLUMBING”  Our nation’s public health and safety depends on it !


In developed countries like the U.S., Japan, and England installed water and sanitation systems, eradicated diseases like Cholera and Typhoid that caused death. Plumbing has saved millions of lives.

Still today, billions of people in the world don’t have plumbing.  We hear public outcries in national news headlines, through leadership, and celebrity spokespeople. They speak of many poverty-related diseases that are costlier to prevent, cannot yet be treated, or kill fewer people. Yet plumbing, a tried-and-true public health intervention which could prevent the astronomical death toll, surprisingly does not receive the spotlight.

Blame it on the name, the plumber stereotype and the plumbing jokes we all enjoy.

There are over 25 deadly and debilitating diseases that are the result of poor sanitation and unsafe water. Perhaps if our leaders would acknowledge pluming as the most important public health and safety practice, it would garner the recognition it deserves. Our public may then realize that people who do not have adequate plumbing are subject to diseases which kill more children than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB combined. The most practical investment we can make in global public health is plumbing.

By studying the historical events of plumbing, we are less likely to repeat the errors, unsafe designs or installations that lead to the uncontrollable fires and plagues of the past which have cost so many lives. Below is a historical timeline from Plumbing Manufacturers International and SafePlumbing.org that will give you a greater understanding of how plumbing has improved our lives.


Clayton, North Carolina