Upgrading Your Pipes

What You Need to Know if You Smell Sewage Inside Your Home

The odor of sewer is one of the most unpleasant smells, especially when it's inside your home. If you have a septic tank, smelling sewage is a main warning sign that your septic tank needs to be pumped. Call a septic service to inspect your septic tank and your drain line system.

In the meantime, since the odor is extremely unpleasant, it's extremely important that you head outside for fresh air as soon as possible and avoid using your home while you wait for a professional to troubleshoot the sewer odor. Here's what you need to know about sewer gas so you can keep yourself and your family safe.

The gases in sewer gas

The odor is from sewer gas, which is comprised of several types of gases, including hydrogen sulfide and methane. These gases are created inside your septic tank when organic matter (bodily waste and food) decomposes. Hydrogen sulfide smells a lot like of rotten eggs.

Methane does not have an odor. While it's usually the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide that serves as a red flag that there are dangerous gases present, it may be possible to have methane present when hydrogen sulfide is a faint odor. Ammonia and carbon monoxide are also present in sewer gas.

Sewer gas is a health hazard

Hydrogen sulfide can make your stomach turn to the point you may feel like retching. It can cause your eyes to water and your nose to run. When the odor is intense, it can cause you to get dizzy, have headaches, and feel fatigued. You may cough and have trouble breathing, especially if you are asthmatic. Death may occur in worst cases.

Methane can cause you to have a headache, feel dizzy and get tired. It's an asphyxiant, which means it displaces oxygen and this could lead to suffocation and unconsciousness. Continuing effects of the lack of oxygen while unconscious could lead to death.

Sewer odor can paralyze the nerves in your nose

 With hydrogen sulfide at a concentration of 100 parts per million, you may lose your sense of smell in just 2-15 minutes. This is known as olfactory fatigue. It happens when the gas paralyzes the nerves in your nose, which means you won't continue to smell the odor of sewer gas.

While that may sound good, it's not. Hydrogen sulfide can still affect your health even if you can no longer smell it. You wouldn't know you are still in danger.

Sewer gas is an explosive

Sewer gas is highly explosive. In fact a woman in Barcelona suffered 3rd degree burns when methane gas in a toilet was ignited by a spark from a light switch. It's believed that the act of sitting on the toilet compressed the methane into the toilet bowl. The light switch caused a spark, which was enough to ignite the methane.

Due to the highly explosive nature of sewer gas, immediately turn the pilot lights of all gas-operated appliances off and extinguish any flames. Do not light matches or flick lighters. It may be a good idea to power-down all the electricity in your home by flipping the circuit breaker off. That way, you won't have to worry about any sparks from light switches or outlet receptacles.

The best thing you can do when you smell sewer in your home or suspect that there is a sewer gas leak is to evacuate your home and call for septic service or a plumber like SOS Septic Inc. Do not be alarmed if these professionals inspect your home while wearing hazmat suits or at least masks covering their mouths, noses, and eyes.