Bacteria have been shown to live in "premises plumbing systems". The latter refers to the "pipes and fixtures within a building that transport water to taps after it is delivered by the utility". Community water systems have been known for centuries to spread waterborne diseases like typhoid and cholera, however "opportunistic premises plumbing pathogens" have been recognized only more recently; Legionella pneumophila discovered in 1976, Mycobacterium avium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa are the most commonly tracked bacteria, which people with depressed immunity can inhale or ingest and may become infected with. These opportunistic pathogens can grow for example in faucets, shower heads, water heaters and along pipe walls. Reasons that favor their growth are "high surface-to-volume ratio, intermittent stagnation, low disinfectant residual, and warming cycles". A high surface-to-volume ratio, i.e. a relatively large surface area allows the bacteria to form a biofilm, which protects them from disinfection.
The word "plumber" dates from the Roman Empire. The Latin for lead is plumbum. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes and some were also covered with lead, lead was also used for piping and for making baths. In medieval times anyone who worked with lead was referred to as a plumber as can be seen from an extract of workmen fixing a roof in Westminster Palace and were referred to as plumbers "To Gilbert de Westminster, plumber, working about the roof of the pantry of the little hall, covering it with lead, and about various defects in the roof of the little hall". Thus a person with expertise in working with lead was first known as a Plumbarius which was later shortened to plumber.