Sewer Gas Poisoning: Causes, Symptoms & Response

Exposure to sewer gas isn’t a pretty experience due to the accompanying foul odor. More dangerous is the health risks presented. Sewer gas poisoning is real and can be deadly when inhaled in significant amounts.

Sewer gas poisoning usually happens when a sewer system is faulty.

You could also be exposed to sewer gas when you don’t put on a protective gas mask. This results in direct inhalation of harmful gases, thus leading to poisoning.

Let’s begin our discussion by first understanding what a sewer gas consists of.

What Are Sewer Gases?

The term “gases” is used to indicate the plurality of gases produced by a sewer system.

The primary constituents of sewer gas include hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide among other gases is found in trace amounts.

  • Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide is the most dominant septic gas contained in sewer systems. Based on the focus of our discussion, exposure to this gas presents significant health risks.

However, the level of risk depends on how long and the volume being inhaled.

Hydrogen sulfide can be identified by its rotten egg-like smell which is very awful. Though unpleasant, it gives you a heads-up when you begin to perceive it.

In other words, you’re able to find the causes of such sewer gas leaks and have such issues fixed. You also get to stay out of the area.

  • Methane & Carbon Dioxide

This is another gas that gets released from a sewer. As greenhouse gases, no major health risk is presented.

However, methane is known for its highly flammable nature. Therefore, exposure to large amounts of methane could result in a fire whenever you light a matchstick or put on a lighter.

  • Ammonia

Ammonia gas is also released from a sewer and poses significant health risks as hydrogen sulfide. This is found in measured amounts in certain cleaning products.

However, major exposure to ammonia could lead to severe health risks.

Such risks include organ damage and possible death. At lower volumes, exposure may result in eye, nose, and throat irritations. These are real issues you have to be careful with.

The Sewage Gas Poisoning Effect

In the previous section, we considered the individual gases released or produced by a sewer system.

All such gases combined are far more potent and deadly. That is what makes sewer gas poisoning a major health risk that needs to be given all the attention it deserves.

The whole process of poisoning begins with exposure. The level of exposure will determine its severity. Sewer gas is supposed to be channeled out through gas vent provisions. However, problems may develop along the way.

You may be faced with a malfunctioning gas vent. Sewer gas leaks may also result. All these are real issues that cause problems.

There are two types of symptoms; mild and severe.

  • Mild Symptoms of Sewer Gas Poisoning

When exposed to sewer gas, you’re likely to notice certain symptoms.

These include headaches, fatigue, lightheadedness, or dizziness as well as vomiting or nausea. Poor memory and concentration are also a possibility. These symptoms are what you’ll experience with mild exposure.

  • Severe Symptoms of Sewer Gas Poisoning

Severe exposure to sewer gas is possible in industrial settings and is quite deadly.

Symptoms are much more serious than in mild exposure. You’re likely to experience a loss of smell. When this happens, even the strong awful odor of hydrogen sulfide isn’t perceived.

Other severe symptoms include lung, mouth, and throat irritation caused by ammonia gas, pink eyes, and eye irritation as well as seizures. The worst of these include coma and possible death. This speaks volumes about the risk posed by sewer gas poisoning.

You’ll need to completely avoid situations that expose you to such gases.

Detecting Sewer Gas Leaks

Luckily, it’s easy to detect sewer gas leaks. Such leaks can be easily picked due to the awful odor being released. The most noticeable smell is that of hydrogen sulfide with its rotten egg smell.

When this is noticed, you’ll need to immediately swing into action.

Response to Sewer Gas Poisoning

Most times these gas leakages aren’t as severe. However, the longer you leave the problem attended to, the worse it becomes. The most appropriate response to mild sewer gas exposure is to aerate your home.

This includes opening up your windows and putting on a fan to keep out these gases.

The next important step to take is to call your plumber immediately. The professional plumber comes around to detect the leak source and have it fixed on time.

However, the approach is much different and rightfully so for severe sewer gas poisoning scenarios. The most immediate action to consider is to get away as fast as you can from the spot in a bid to inhale fresh air.

Next, seek urgent medical attention or care. So, what are the symptoms of sewer gas poisoning? For the sake of emphasis, the first signs you’ll notice include difficulty in breathing.

Others include dizziness and nausea. Getting medical attention prevents a worsening of the situation.

Never Fix Sewer Gas Leaks Yourself

It’s critically important that you don’t attempt to fix sewer gas leaks yourself.

There are cases of people that have put themselves in harm’s way by attempting to fix sewer gas leaks. Qualified technicians are better trained for such jobs.

When faced with this situation, immediately place a call to your plumber. As you wait for their arrival, move away from affected areas. Affected areas will be those giving off sewer gas odors.

Another action to take has been mentioned earlier; the aeration of your surroundings.

What are the Causes?

Sewer gas poisoning isn’t an isolated event. It’s caused by a malfunctioning sewer system. Such malfunctions may include leaks, blocked air vents, cracked pipes, dry plumbing, clogged drains, and loose toilets.

All of these are possible system malfunctions that will need to be first determined before appropriate action is taken. Your sewer gas leak situation may be caused by one or a number of these situations.

Have these inspected and fixed as early as possible to avoid problems.

Sewer gas poisoning is a problem that can be avoided by taking precautionary actions. This includes proper maintenance of your system.

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