Sometimes we all need to blow our own trumpets, and today it is the turn of the plumbing industry.
As the country once again wrings itself out after another deluge of storms and flooding, it has to be said that the people who keep the water flowing and the drains unblocked should be given a medal. Plumbers rank right up there alongside the emergency services as a group of people who keep people safe and healthy. And we have been around for a long time.
An early profession
Plumbing originated way back during the times of the ancient civilisations – Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese cities all developed systems for bathing and drainage. As ealy as 2700BC, asphalt was used in the Indus Valley to prevent leaks in the intricate water systems, while the Romans used lead piping to transport water. In a sign that things don’t change too much, the Romans used inscriptions on their lead piping to prevent theft.
Although the Romans, Greeks and Persians were very advanced, there was virtually no changes made to their original plumbing systems until the growth of urban areas in the 19th century.
Across Europe, people were flocking to the cities from the rural areas and mass housing projects were initiated to cope with the influx. With a sudden surge in population came the inevitable diseases and contagious illnesses that occur when lots of people inhabit a small area. Public health officials and the medical profession began to make the connection between water, sanitation and disease. Cholera, tuberculosis and typhoid were rife in the cities and the plague that periodically swept across Europe during this time was responsible for thousands of deaths. With sewage running down open drains in the streets and numerous families sharing one water source, the prevalence of diseases was hardly surprising.
Public health authorities began pressing for better waste disposal systems to be installed to prevent or control epidemics of disease. Earlier, the waste disposal system had merely consisted of collecting waste and dumping it on the ground or into a river. Eventually the development of separate, underground water and sewage systems eliminated open sewage ditches and cesspools.
Today most large cities pipe solid waste to sewage treatment plants, where the solids are removed and the water is partially purified before being emptied back into streams and rivers. The pipes that transport our water used to be made from lead – a hangover form Roman times, but around the 1960s people began to associate the piping with lead poisoning and so copper piping has been introduced as a safer alternative.
Protecting the health of the nation
Keeping the pipes clear, ensuring that we have clean water to drink and our waste is safely removed is imperative to the health of the nation, which is why professional plumbers play such an important part in society.