The Dangers of Sewage Backups

Home Inspector with Executive Restoration LLC 704.905.9152

You may have heard the term “sewage backup” but not know exactly what one is. A sewage backup can also be referred to as raw sewage, sewage sludge or septic tank waste. All of those terms are equally gross sounding, but they do not alert you to the serious dangers involved.

Septic tank waste is basically a mix of murky water that contains of variety of unpleasant things such as wastewater from your household, organic waste, solid waste, human excrement and debris. All of these things are hazardous to your health, but human excrement brings the highest risks as it contains micro-organisms such as coliform, fecal coliform, Escherichia coliform and Enterococcus.

Exposure to raw sewage can result in several illnesses. E. coli is a bacteria that is commonly found within human and animal intestinal tracts, but is very dangerous outside of the intestines. Someone who comes in contact with E. Coli can develop severe diarrhea and abdominal cramping.

Contact with raw sewage can also result in Hepatitis, which is an infection of the liver. When Hepatitis is contracted due to contact with sewage it is usually evident through jaundice and the inflammation of the liver.

Weil’s disease has been linked to contact with raw sewage. This disease involves symptoms of Gastroenteritis, jaundice, fever and severe headaches.

Physical contact is not the only way sewage backups can harm you. The air around the sewage backup can become infected; meaning simply breathing near the hazardous waste can be dangerous. By inhaling the fumes you put yourself at risk of contracting Gastroenteritis, which is a virus found in human fecal waste. You may also develop occupational asthma, which involves being short of breath, a tight chest and severe wheezing. These fumes are often released during the clean-up process, which is why it is so very important to hire a professional to deal with the raw sewage and stay clear of the area until it is declared safe.

There are 3 main ways for someone to become infected by the micro-organisms present in a sewage backup. The most common is simple hand-to-mouth contact. This involves touching the bacteria and then eating, drinking, smoking or some other activity that involves touching your mouth with your hands. The second way is through the air. One can breathe in toxins or even particles of infected dust. Once breathed in, the micro-organisms can attack the respiratory system. The third way is through skin contact. Once one has touched the contaminated particles, the bacteria can enter the body through scratches, cuts, eyes, nose and mouth.

Due to the sensitive nature of sewage backups, it is imperative that you do not try to handle the situation on your own. Trained professionals are well informed of the dangers and know how to protect themselves from the health risks while they clean up the mess and make your home safe once again. It is important to stay clear of the raw sewage until the professionals tell you it is safe. Executive Restoration provides sewage clean-up services and can be contacted at (704) 545-0098.

Comments (24)

Debbie Waxler

I live on the ground floor of a 3 story apartment building in a small city. Within the past 3 years there has been 15 - 20 sewage backups, resulting in raw sewage coming up into my bathtub!! The other 3 apartments have overflowing toilets instead. My landlord has a plumber come in to snake the drain & blames the backups on flushed feminine products & baby wipes. Sometimes this happens 3 - 5 times in 1 week, even 2 days after snaking! We all have to do our own cleanups. After reading the above article about all the dangers, even with inhalation, I am very worried because it's just a matter of time before it happens again! Recently our local News ran a story about the antiquated sewage system in my town & warned of backups. I have no moving option. I clean by scrubbing the tub with straight clorox & hot water. I hope that's sufficient! Do I have any legal options or must my young grandson & I continually be put at risk??

Feb 21, 2016 06:40 AM
David Snell

There is a great group on Face book called: mold inspectors, mold remediators and more!
you might want to check out this group.
They talk about everything you can imagine.
Take care,

Feb 21, 2016 10:47 AM

I work at a place that sometimes exposes this raw sewage to myself and many more people. What can I do to protect myself?

Dec 18, 2016 07:43 PM
David snell

check out a platform that has really helped me and others called

Jan 12, 2017 02:59 PM

I have a raw sewage smell everytime the guy upstairs takes a shower. Landing won't fix it, he terminated our lease. It smells horrible everyday, and we're feeling ill. We can't afford to move. Any advice?? Thanks

Jan 31, 2017 07:39 AM
David Snell

Another resource center that has helped me and so many others is called:
It is free and I love it.
David Snell

Jan 31, 2017 07:57 AM

I have 3 kids my partner and myself in a bsmnt suite. There was a big flood of urine and and human feces. A thick blanket of it in the furnace room. The manager left it to sit about four days and the smell filled the entire bsmnt for days. He told me on the fifth day that a professional came and cleaned all of it up. All it looked like was that someone scraped off the top layer and just left it like that. No sanitizer was visibly used. Because of not knowing that we were not supposed to be inthe suite i brought my kids back in. Weve all experience headaches and weezing. Tigtness in the chest. I have a headache as i write this. And my throat feels like its closing up. Any advice? Should we get out of here. And who do i talk to about this?

Mar 15, 2017 01:28 PM

My daughter just played in septic back up and she slung her shoes and it got in my mouth and nose I'm really scared I cleaned my face with antibacterial soap and rinsed my mouth with antiseptic what should my concerns be

Mar 30, 2017 05:21 PM

my school has a sewage backup and we're sitting through it...haha yes

Jun 05, 2017 05:18 AM
Cora Lozano

About one block from our house, the city is experiencing sewage back up. This has been going on for months now, there are 3 or 4 houses closer than I am and an elementary school with over 500 students 1 1/2 block away. The city trys to drain it everyday to keep it from going into the street, but the smell is horrible. I know this is making me sick, my stomach is always upset and always have a runny nose. The city has received complaints but nothing is done about it. What can I do about this.

Apr 10, 2018 01:42 PM
Inspector David Snell

You can text me 704-905-9152

Apr 10, 2018 01:45 PM

Can u get sick by breathing in fumes through heating vents if the sewer waste is in basement?

May 06, 2018 02:42 PM
Katie Michelle Griffin

My husband and I, with our 4 kiddos will be moving out of our house in about 3 weeks. My husband flushed a couple baby wipes in the downstairs toilet.... now the sewage is backed up into the toilet, shower, and in the "grinder pit" (a.k.a.) the hole in the floor where all our human waste, shower water, and sink water collects to a certain amount that'll cause the pump to to kick on and suck all the sewage up, and out to the sewer line outside the house. The smell is horrendous!!!!! Are we in any kind of danger breathing in the fumes for such a small amount of time?

May 18, 2018 09:34 PM

My house had a back up from the sewage on the 10th we used a shop vac to clean up all the water out our self but it still smells in here I have had a migraine since the 11th Can the smell be giving me a migraine or no all I know is my head is pounding and I’m nauseated

May 29, 2018 11:13 AM

What do you drink or take to clean out your body after working in waste water on a daily bases ?

Jun 02, 2018 07:22 PM
Melissa votaw

We have just had sewage backup under the house been there awhile are at risk for illness they cleaned it up yesterday

Jun 05, 2018 04:31 AM
Chanda stouch

My neighbors and I share an alley. Our AC unit is on the side facing the alley and their house. Our sewage pipes were done in the 50’s and not laid with a slant down. So, about once a year we have to have our sewage pipes jetted out with high pressure water. This is the second time we ate breathing in the fumes of our neighbors backed up sewer. Code did something to help fix and clean the situation a couple years back but say there’s nothing they can do because it’s not on our property this time? Either we breathe in their sewer fumes all day or our home can hit 100 degrees. Somehow I don’t see them taking in that kind of s*”t if it was their family at code.

Jul 25, 2018 05:02 PM
Bonnie Barber

Broken sewer line in my trailer park and near my back door.since June of 2018.flowing under my trailer.smells bad .is it dangerous?

Mar 20, 2019 01:40 PM

my father-in-law purposely rigged my sewer lines..when I left for few weeks and recently I started to smell the sewerage from my kitchen sink real bad when I wash dishes or brush my teeth.. now I've become sick from it.headache dizziness throwing up.etc..can I get worse if I DNT see medical attention

Apr 14, 2019 02:00 AM
Cindy Hanks

I had a sewage overflow in my bathroom caused by faulty pipes in my building. Plumbers fixed the plumbing but I was left to clean up. Now I’m feeling sick; sore throat, exhaustion. I’m 71. Could this be caused by me cleaning the raw sewage? And Dangerous is this for my health?

May 31, 2019 09:53 AM

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?