Dangers lurk in your bathroom with DIY quasi bidets

Person washing hands at washbasin

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has had some unexpected consequences, including the somewhat bizarre shortage of toilet paper.

To address this shortage, some aspiring DIY-enthusiasts rushed out to purchase plumbing products such as toilet seat bidet douches, handheld bidet sprays and trigger sprays and other bidet type products that can be connected to toilet water supply outlets (bidet products).

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider not following this example.

When it's not a good idea to DIY

DIY installation of these types of bidet products in your home in an attempt to convert your toilet into a ‘quasi-bidet’ is not only illegal, but may present health risks to your family and the community.

Health issues

DIY installation of bidet type products can cause serious health issues for members of your household and neighbouring properties, as sewage can contaminate the drinking water supply through cross-connection (backflow or back-siphonage). A typical scenario of how cross-contamination could occur would be if you, a family member or a neighbour accidentally dropped a handheld douche spray into the toilet, which may cause contamination of the drinking water supply if an appropriate backflow prevention device has not been installed.

Having the correct backflow prevention device installed is considered by the plumbing, water supply and related health sectors as being a highly important public health and safety measure. There are numerous documented instances of contamination of public drinking water through cross-connection and backflow problems. Drinking contaminated water can cause minor illnesses such as stomach upsets that are sometimes incorrectly attributed to food poisoning. More severe biological and chemical cross-contamination can result in serious illnesses, diseases and even death.

Just how contaminated your bathroom can be is illustrated by recent studies that have found that COVID-19 virus may spread through "aerosolised faeces" if people leave the lid up when they flush the toilet*.

These health issues can be averted by using a licensed plumber, which is a requirement of State and Territory laws for this type of installation. A licensed plumber understands and follows the requirements of the Plumbing Code of Australia ensuring all products and materials have WaterMark certification where required. A licensed plumber will also determine the appropriate cross-connection control (backflow device) that needs to be installed to eliminate the risk of contamination to the drinking water supply.

DIY plumbing will cost you

Handheld bidet sprays, trigger sprays, and handheld shower hoses are being connected by some DIY operators to the toilet isolation valve via a ‘tee piece’ fitting. Most manufacturers’ instructions state that these devices must be turned on and off with each use at the isolation valve. This is because they may not be designed to withstand the static or constant water pressure in Australia and may fail if they are left turned on for a long period. This may result in extensive water damage to your home and insurance companies will not pay for damage caused by plumbing work not carried out by a licensed plumber.

Unauthorised alterations and modifications to your home’s plumbing and drainage systems are subject to penalties by your State/Territory regulatory authority. Depending on the type of work being undertaken, your local regulatory authority may be required to be advised before the work commences.

Undertaking plumbing and drainage work without the appropriate licence can attract some significant penalties. The penalties apply to both the person carrying out the work and the homeowner.

To avoid problems with the installation of bidet-type products, make sure to:

  • Use a licensed plumber for all plumbing work – ask to see the plumber's licence.
  • Remember that insurance companies will not cover damage caused by unauthorised plumbing work or work that is not carried out by a licensed plumber.
  • Use only WaterMark certified products – look for the WaterMark logo.
  • Prevent the risk of cross-contamination of the drinking water supply by having a plumber install the appropriate backflow prevention device.

*"Evidence for Gastrointestinal Infection of SARS-CoV2" - Fei Xiao, Meiwen Tang, Xiaobin Zheng, Ye Liu, Xiaofeng Li, Hong Shan, Gastroenterology; Volume 158, pp1831-1833, American Gastroenterology Association, May 2020

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