4 Harmful Gases Found In Dirty Septic Tanks And Lines

If you surpass the recommended septic pumping interval for your tank and household size, harmful gases could build up in the lines. If these gases move past the included safeguards in your plumbing system, you and your family could suffer from the effects of direct exposure. Knowing how to detect leaking septic gas, and what to do if it enters your airspace, can protect all of the home's occupants from serious illness. Here are four gases, and their effects, to watch out for.  


Small amounts of methane occur naturally in the environment and are not inherently harmful. Unfortunately, in enclosed spaces, methane has the ability to take the place of oxygen in the air. As the oxygen levels in your home drop, you could develop a headache or dizziness. If the leaking methane continues to displace oxygen, you could eventually asphyxiate. 

In natural circumstances, methane does not have a smell. Natural gas, which mostly contains methane, has artificial rotten egg scent added to the mixture to alert homeowners when a leak occurs.Methane coming from your sewer system will not have a smell beyond the strong scent of waste from the pipes. As a result, it is important to always contact a septic professional upon detecting the scent of waste coming from your toilet or drains, such as the ones for the sink, tub, basement or washing machine.

Sulfur Dioxide

Waste compounds in your septic tank and lines also release sulfur dioxide as they break down. Gases produced during the decomposition process are usually released out of the tank vent. However, if this vent develops a clog, the gas could travel back through the lines toward your home.

The amount of sulfur released into your environment usually determines how fast symptoms develop. The main issue caused by sulfur dioxide exposure is severe respiratory distress, especially in sensitive individuals, such as asthmatics or those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Like methane, ammonia does not cause any health problems in low concentrations, which is why people can use it as a cleaning product. However, as the substance builds up in the air, it can cause airway irritation. This is why it's important to open the doors and windows while cleaning with ammonia.

If it comes up through your septic lines, you might not notice this odorless substance in the air until your lungs feel restricted. Respond immediately to strange sensations by exiting your home and calling in the professionals. Septic technicians can test the air in your home to see if you need immediate repairs.

Hydrogen Sulfide             

Since this substance naturally smells like rotten eggs, even at low concentrations, you will likely notice this gas in the air before it causes health issues to develop. However, if you stay in the environment for a prolonged amount of time, or if the concentrations are immediately high, you could start to feel chest tightness, eye pain and even a loss of smell.

As the gas concentrations rise, you could even feel incredibly fatigued, pass out or die. You must remove everyone, including pets, from the house if you detect a rotten egg odor in your home. Keep everyone out until septic professionals deem the building safe for reentry.

Keeping Gases Out

Keep your plumbing and septic components in good shape to prevent gas accumulation in your home. Plumbing devices keep harmful gases from flowing into your home through the pipes. For example, in your toilet, the combination of the wax ring and the water in the bowl block gases from escaping into your living area.

Sink and tub drains feature a curved pipe, called a p-trap, that contains just enough water to create a solid barrier that the gases cannot permeate. Regular septic tank cleanings can reduce the amount of gas in the lines, so it dissipates before it even has the chance to reach your home. 

About Me

Home Renovation Expectations: Knowing What's To Come

When I bought my first house, I did it with the expectation of needing to do some remodeling. I wasn't, however, prepared for how complex the renovation process was. From upgrading the retaining walls to adding cosmetic features like the stone patio, I was inundated with decisions to make and materials to select. I wished that I had known how much was involved from the beginning so that I could be better prepared. That's when I decided to use what I'd learned to help others better prepare for their own remodeling projects. I hope the information here helps you to see what you can expect as you get ready to expand your property or renovate the existing space.



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