Editor's note

While you’ve been following stay-at-home orders to protect public health, many of the buildings you normally use – offices, gyms, schools, shopping malls – have been unnaturally quiet. So has the water in their pipes. With no one running the taps or flushing the toilets, another health hazard may be growing inside.

A team of environment and ecological engineers from Purdue University and Virginia Tech is raising the alarm about waterborne risks in buildings as governors start announcing plans to send people back to work.

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Stacy Morford

General Assignments Editor

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Discolored water can be caused by heavy metals, such as iron or copper. Iron can also act as a nutrient for organisms to grow in the pipes. Kyungyeon Ra/Purdue University

The coronavirus pandemic might make buildings sick, too

Caitlin R. Proctor, Purdue University; Andrew J. Whelton, Purdue University; William Rhoads, Virginia Tech

Office buildings have been left mostly empty for weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic, leaving standing water in pipes where harmful organisms can grow. What happens when those buildings reopen?

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