Septic tanks are a common form of wastewater management for households and buildings that are not connected to a municipal sewer system. While septic tanks are efficient in treating and disposing of wastewater, they can produce unpleasant odors that may pose health risks to individuals who are frequently exposed to them. In this article, we will explore the question, “Can Septic Tank Smell Make You Sick?“
Can Septic Tank Smell Make You Sick?
The main gases produced by anaerobic digestion of organic matter in the septic system are methane gas and hydrogen sulfide gas, along with traces or smaller amounts of harmful gases such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Septic gases also contain airborne bacteria and pathogens. In this section, we will discuss how each of these gases can make you sick.
1. Methane Gas
Methane gas is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced during the anaerobic digestion of organic matter in the septic system. It is highly flammable and explosive and can displace oxygen in confined spaces, leading to asphyxiation. Methane gas can cause dizziness, nausea, mood changes, slurred speech, vision problems, headaches, and loss of consciousness. In high concentrations, it can also cause respiratory failure and death.
The methane gas produced by a septic tank can be captured and used as a cooking gas. This involves installing a biogas digester to capture and store the methane gas.
Treatment for methane gas poisoning
If someone is experiencing methane gas poisoning, the first step is to remove them from the area with the methane gas and move them to a well-ventilated area. It’s important to avoid breathing in the gas yourself, so you may need to wear protective equipment like a mask or respirator.
Once the individual has been removed from the area with the methane gas, it’s important to assess their condition and determine the appropriate treatment. If the person is unconscious or not breathing, you may need to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or use a defibrillator to revive them.
In addition to these life-saving measures, it’s also important to provide the person with oxygen to help them recover from the effects of methane gas poisoning. This can be done using an oxygen mask or other respiratory support.
If you suspect that someone has been exposed to methane gas and is experiencing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headache, or dizziness, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Methane gas poisoning can be very dangerous and even fatal in some cases, so prompt treatment is essential.
2. Hydrogen Sulfide Gas
Hydrogen sulfide gas is a colorless gas that has a characteristic rotten egg odor. It is produced during the anaerobic digestion of sulfur-containing organic matter in the septic system. Hydrogen sulfide gas is highly toxic and can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, convulsions, irritability, insomnia, nausea, delirium, disturbed equilibrium, tremors and vomiting.
Ammonia is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that is produced during the breakdown of nitrogen-containing organic matter in the septic system. It is highly irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat and can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure to ammonia can also cause lung damage, blindness and respiratory failure.
Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced during the anaerobic digestion of organic matter in the septic system. It is a natural component of the atmosphere, but high concentrations can cause dizziness, headaches, and shortness of breath.
5. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced during the incomplete combustion of organic matter in the septic system. It is highly toxic and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. In high concentrations, it can lead to unconsciousness and death.
6. Sulfur Dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that is produced during the breakdown of sulfur-containing organic matter in the septic system. It is highly irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat and can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure to sulfur dioxide can also cause lung damage and respiratory failure.
7. Nitrogen Dioxide
Nitrogen dioxide is a reddish-brown gas with a pungent odor that is produced during the combustion of organic matter in the septic system. It is highly toxic and can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Prolonged exposure to nitrogen dioxide can also cause lung damage and respiratory failure.
8. Can Septic Tank Smell Make You Sick: Airborne Bacteria & Pathogens
When the contents of a septic tank are disturbed, such as during cleaning or maintenance, the bacteria and pathogens can become airborne and potentially be inhaled. This can lead to a variety of health problems, particularly for individuals with weakened immune systems.
To minimize the risk of illness from septic tank smells, it’s important to take precautions such as wearing a mask or respirator when repairing or pumping a septic tank, and ensuring adequate ventilation to disperse any airborne bacteria or pathogens. If you experience any symptoms after being exposed to a septic tank smell, seek medical attention immediately.
Is it normal to smell sewage from septic tank?
It is not normal to smell sewage from a septic tank. If you can smell sewage or a strong odor coming from your septic tank, it may be an indication that there is a problem with the system that needs to be addressed.
The most common cause of a foul odor from a septic tank is a blockage or backup in the system. This can occur when solids build up in the tank and prevent the effluent from flowing out to the drain field. If the effluent cannot flow out of the tank, it can become stagnant and begin to emit a strong odor.
Other potential causes of a foul odor from a septic tank include cracks or damage to the tank, leaky pipes, or a malfunctioning ventilation system. If you can smell sewage from your septic tank, it’s important to have the system inspected and serviced by a professional as soon as possible to prevent further damage and potential health hazards.
A change in atmospheric pressure due to heavy rainfall can also cause a septic tank to produce a foul smell. When the atmospheric pressure changes, it can affect the way air flows through the plumbing system, which can cause air to be sucked out of the septic tank and into the house.
Placing a septic tank under a house is not a feasible option due to several critical reasons. Firstly, it can cause severe structural damage to the foundation, compromising the safety of the entire structure. Additionally, the accumulation of waste and wastewater can lead to unpleasant odors permeating the living space, making it uninhabitable. The weight of the tank and its contents may also cause the floor to collapse over time. Moreover, accessing the septic tank beneath the house makes it challenging to access for regular maintenance and repairs, leading to potential system failures and health hazards. The installation and maintenance of such a complex setup can be both costly and impractical, making it essential to place septic tanks in appropriate and accessible locations away from the dwelling.
It is not feasible to have a septic tank without a leach field. These two components work in tandem to effectively treat and disperse wastewater from your home.
A septic tank is responsible for separating solid waste from liquid waste, allowing bacterial processes to break down the solids. However, once this treatment occurs, the liquid effluent needs somewhere to go. This is where the leach field, also known as a drain field, comes into play.
The leach field disperses the treated liquid effluent into the soil, allowing it to further undergo natural filtration and purification. This process is vital for preventing groundwater contamination and ensuring a safe disposal of wastewater. Therefore, a functional septic system necessitates both a septic tank and a leach field.
It’s important to address any foul odor coming from a septic tank as soon as possible and to have the system inspected and serviced by a professional to prevent potential health hazards. Proper maintenance of the septic system, including regular pumping and cleaning, can help prevent the buildup of organic matter and the release of toxic gases.