When you leave a bathroom closed for days, weeks, or months, the lack of use can make conditions in the bathroom unsafe. If you’re a business reopening after being closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, then you should familiarize yourself with these potential risks so that you can reopen your bathroom safely. The major risks you face are mold, Legionella and high levels of lead or copper. Here is what you can do about them.
Find and Resolve Mold
Simply looking through your bathroom for mold is your first step to opening your bathroom. The CDC recommends that you choose trained industrial hygienists to look and smell for mold. They may also use tools to assess the relative level of humidity. High humidity can cause mold, so it is wise to control humidity, especially if you may have to shut down the bathroom again.
Whether the inspection does or doesn’t turn up mold, the bathroom’s air should be “flushed” by the HVAC system. Turn the system back on for 48-72 hours and just watch for mold smells and allow the air to ventilate.
If mold is found you may need professional remediation services from a mold specialist to make sure that it is resolved properly before you allow people back into the bathroom.
Minimize Risk of Legionella
Legionella is a dangerous bacteria that is more likely to grow when you leave the bathroom unattended. If your hot water supply ran cold, then Legionella may have grown in it. Also, if water is stagnant for a long time, it is more likely to develop Legionella. The solution is to flush all of the water in the building. If it’s possible that when doing so, you or your team could be exposed to aerosolized Legionella, as in when flushing a toilet with the bacteria in it, then you should wear proper PPE, such as anair-purifying respirator with an N95 filter.
It is also wise to check on the settings of your hot water and be sure it is high enough to prevent the growth of Legionella.
Flush Copper or Lead
Pipes made of copper may leach very small amounts of copper into the water. This only becomes a problem when the water is sitting for a long time. In addition, pipes with lead problems may leak significantly more lead into the water. The pH of stagnant water in pipes may change over time to release much more lead or copper.
In either case, you will need to flush the water and may also need to add chemicals to restore the pH in the pipes or limit the corrosion that has caused the copper or lead to leach. It is best to get professional help from a plumber to resolve these issues.
Ideally, if you discover a lead issue with your pipes after a prolonged period of not using them, it is wise to get the source of the lead removed entirely.