The Importance of Synthetic Polymeric Materials for Biofilm Formation and Management
The environmental conditions in building plumbing systems differ considerably from the larger distribution system and, as a consequence, uncontrolled changes in the drinking water microbiome through selective growth can occur. In this regard, synthetic polymeric plumbing materials are of particular relevance, since they leach assimilable organic carbon that can be utilized for bacterial growth.
Here, we discuss the complexity of building plumbing in relation to microbial ecology, especially in the context of low-quality synthetic polymeric materials (i.e., plastics) and highlight the major knowledge gaps in the field. We furthermore show how knowledge on the interaction between material properties (e.g., carbon migration) and microbiology (e.g., growth rate) allows for the quantification of initial biofilm development in buildings. Hence, research towards a comprehensive understanding of these processes and interactions will enable the implementation of knowledge-based management strategies. We argue that the exclusive use of high-quality materials in new building plumbing systems poses a straightforward strategy towards managing the building plumbing microbiome. This can be achieved through comprehensive material testing and knowledge sharing between all stakeholders including architects, planners, plumbers, material producers, home owners, and scientists.