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Health Risks of Sewage Backup in Homes

Health Risks of Sewage Backup in Homes

If you didn’t think home-owning was hard enough, here’s a new fear: having sewage backed up into your home. Whatever you’re picturing is probably right: gross, unsanitary, unhealthy, bacteria-infested water in your home.

As you can imagine, there are health risks associated with fecal matter backing up into your home. Depending on where the backup occurs, the particles from the waste could infiltrate the air you’re breathing. It can cause respiratory and even gastric issues.

While we wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone, it’s wise to be ready for the possibility. When your drains and sewage backup, you want to be ready to tackle the issue quickly.

Why Do Drains and Sewage Back Up?

A blockage isn’t the only origin of a sewage drain backup. There are several reasons why this nightmare might happen.

Tree Roots

Tree roots are small and wiry and can become invasive if left to grow in the wrong area. They flourish in dark, moist environments full of organic matter that nourish the roots.

If they’re left to grow too much, they can cause a massive clog. Roots can even destroy the pipe if they grow too thickly in the joint. Even if you don’t have a big tree on your property, your neighbor may have an old tree with an invasive root system.

A camera inspection can scope out if tree roots are causing your issue.

Heavy Storms

After waste and water leave your home, they travel down the main sewer line of your home. The waste drains into the city’s shared sewer lines and, eventually, to a treatment facility.

Heavy rain storms can overwhelm the city’s sewage system. Since it’s all connected to the sewer main that runs from your house to the street, a problem that started elsewhere can cause water and sewage to drain back into your home.

Pipe Blockages

Flushing items in the toilet not meant to be flushed (sanitary products like tampons, paper towels, un-flushable baby wipes, etc.) can cause a blockage. These foreign objects will certainly cause sewage to back up in your home.

The problem with these items is they don’t disintegrate in the water. As such, they get lodged in the pipe system, causing a blockage.

Everyone in your home must know what can and can’t be flushed, especially if you have an older home with weaker pipes and lower flushing pressure. Consistently flushing undissolvable materials will undoubtedly lead to a clog and a backup.

Can You Get Sick From a Sewer Backup?

The short answer is: yes. Sewage contains solid and liquid waste that has broken down into other chemicals.

The smells from these can be harmful. You may first notice the smell of rotten eggs, which will clue you into there being a problem. Some general symptoms are nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, or poor concentration.

Here are some components of sewage that can cause health issues.

Hydrogen Sulfide

Sewer gas in the form of hydrogen sulfide is the main product of the breakdown of bodily waste. In low quantities, it won’t do much harm. In higher quantities, it can disrupt organs and tissues that use oxygen to function, eventually leading to illness and death.

If you have a large amount of sewage backup, this can be enough to trigger symptoms. It can also cause eye irritation and respiratory irritation.

If you or a loved one have respiratory issues like asthma or COPD, it’s crucial to resolve the sewage backup as soon as possible.


This bacteria is a widespread product found in sewage. E.Coli is usually present in the gut, where it causes no issues. But if you come in contact with E.Coli otherwise, it can cause serious sickness with symptoms such as severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and dehydration.

If diarrhea and dehydration persist for too long without care and sufficient rehydration, it can lead to death. Don’t wait after exposure to backed-up sewage—seek medical treatment immediately.


This group of bacteria is also commonly found in sewage. It can cause severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever starting 1 to 3 days after exposure.

Salmonella Closeup

Symptoms can last up to 7 days, but most people will get better without treatment, provided they can drink enough fluid to offset what they’ve lost in the form of diarrhea. Infants and the elderly are more susceptible to severe illness from this bacteria.

Steps To Follow When Your Sewage Backs Up

1. Keep Everyone Away

Because of the severe health issues that can ensue after a sewage backup, it’s essential to keep everyone as far away from the location as possible. That may mean closing off a bathroom or even moving out of your house for some time.

2. Call Emergency Plumbing Services

Don’t try to clean the backup yourself. Even if you manage to clean it, you most likely will not be able to fix the clog, and the sewage will just come back.

Plumbing professionals at All Dry USA have the tools and protection to deal with these issues safely.

3. Everybody Clean Up

After professionals have come to repair the blockage and remove the sewage, it’s essential to discard everything contaminated by the sewage.

If the waste got onto your carpet, the carpet must be torn up and removed to avoid deadly bacteria growing underneath. If wooden furniture has become contaminated, it is best to discard it as well. Glass and ceramic surfaces should be fine as long as you clean them thoroughly with bleach or other heavy-duty cleaning products.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Get Sick From Sewage Backup?

If you have become sick due to contact with sewage, you will likely start to develop symptoms within 1 to 3 days. If your symptoms are very severe and last longer than two days, you should call your healthcare provider for help.

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Dealing With Water Damage? Let Us Help

All Dry USA has trained professionals who are well-equipped and ready to help you with your sewage backup issue. Don’t tackle it yourself: let us help. Call All Dry US today!


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