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Plumbing Organizations Respond To Hands-Free Faucets Study

June 24, 2011
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North American plumbing organizations came together June 7 to discuss current issues affecting the plumbing community, focusing on the recent study by Johns Hopkins University staff on electronic hands-free faucets.

According to the study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examined bacterial growth from faucets of two clinical wards within Johns Hopkins Hospital from December 2008 through January 2009. Their study included 20 manual faucets and 20 electronic faucets, all receiving water from the same source. Cultures obtained from the faucets showed that 50 percent of water cultures from electronic faucets grew Legionella spp. compared to 15 percent of water cultures from manual faucets.

Meeting participants reviewed the Johns Hopkins presentation based on the limited public information available and also heard presentations from Dr. Paul Sturman, P.E., from the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University, who spoke on biofilms; Doug Erickson from the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, who discussed the status of a project that is surveying hospitals on their use of electronic faucet systems; and Jim Mann, executive director of the Handwashing Leadership Forum.

The following conclusions and recommended actions resulted from the meeting:

  • The use of electronic faucets provides significant benefit by reducing the potential of cross-contamination from faucet handles to health-care providers’ hands.


  • Broad industry participation (manufacturers, engineers, subject-matter experts and installers) early in any research process would enhance the research regarding accuracy and results.


  • As no one in the group had seen the actual study, additional information is needed concerning the results presented by Johns Hopkins, and the group agreed that outreach should continue. Questions prepared by the group will be provided to Johns Hopkins, along with an invitation for them to participate with the group in further research and data collection.


  • Full support was given to the position statement recently published by ASHE and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.


  • The ASPE Research Foundation will coordinate research projects designed to address questions raised by the Johns Hopkins presentation.


  • A separate position statement on the use of electronic faucets will be developed by the group for future release.


  • There is tremendous value in bringing together stakeholders to discuss important industry issues. While this meeting was the first of its kind, it will not be the last, as significant benefits resulted from the cross-industry communication on the issue.


  • “No matter what area of the plumbing community meeting attendees represented, there was one common focus from all: a commitment to providing plumbing systems that help protect public health and safety,” stated Jim Kendzel, MPH, CAE, executive director/CEO of ASPE. “It is our hope that this highly successful meeting will become a foundation for future positive, interactive dialogue among those groups directly impacting plumbing in North America.”

    Organizations represented at the meeting include: Alliance for Water Efficiency; American Backflow Prevention Association; American Society of Plumbing Engineers; ASPE Research Foundation; Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating; Canadian Standards Association; International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials; International Code Council; Mechanical Contractors Association of America/Plumbing Contractors of America; NSF International; Plumbing Contractors Association of Chicago and Cook County; Plumbing Manufacturers International; Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association; and Underwriters Laboratories.

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