Sewage Backup Health Risks & Dangers

Sewage backups can be extremely dangerous. Wondering what are health risks associated with sewage backup exposure?

In this guide, you will learn:

  • How sewage backups affects health & If it’s safe to stay in a house after a sewage backup,
  • Risks of sewage gas & Sewage exposure symptoms,
  • All about Cleaning Sewage backups and precautions to take.

How Does Sewage Backups Affect Human Health?

Not only do sewage backups can cause a lot of water damage , sewage backups are a bio-hazard and pose an extreme health hazard. Sewage backups has lots of contaminants and pathogens living inside of it and exposure can cause a variety of diseases which can lead to sickness or even death.

Sewage backups also release toxic gases which can be dangerous, especially in high amounts. Viruses and bacteria can also become airborne so they are easily inhaled.

Infection or disease from Sewage Backups is more harmful to small children or the elderly.

Diseases Caused By Sewage Backups And Leaks


Campylobacteriosis is quite common after being exposed to sewage backups. It is an infection that causes diarrhea and is caused by the bacteria campylobacter which is usually found in feces.

Some people don’t show symptoms but if they do occur they can show within 12-72 hours and consist of nausea, diarrhea – sometimes with blood, abdominal cramps, fever and vomiting.

A possible long term effect of campylobacteriosis is GBS (Guillain-Barré syndrome) which affects nerves and can cause long-term weakness and pain.


Gastroenteritis is an infection that grows in the digestive system and can be caused by many viruses, bacteria or parasites.

Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, fever and nausea. They can start within a day or two and can last from 1 to 10+ days but bacterial causes can last for a couple of weeks or more.

Dehydration is usually the main issue as your body is losing lots of water through vomiting and diarrhea so you must keep drinking water or it can be fatal.


Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection caused by salmonella found in sewage.

The symptoms that usually lasts 4 to 7 days include stomach cramps, severe diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and in some cases even extremely high fever. Salmonellosis is one of the most common diseases you can get if exposed to raw sewage backups.

4.Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A Virus is an enteric picornavirus that causes hepatitis and is most commonly transmitted by fecal-oral route. Handling sewage backups can be extremely dangerous since Hepatitis A is quite common in raw sewage.

A recent study found that 24.2% of wastewater samples have had Hepatitis A virus pathogens.

Frequent exposure to raw sewage leaks and backups in sewage workers has caused Hepatitis A to infect many workers. This Study Found that as much as 60% of Sewage workers that have had exposure to raw sewage has had Hepatitis A Infection.


E-coli Bacteria is known to thrive in wastewater , sewage backups can be an easy way to get infected with e-coli bacteria.

While most strains of E-coli bacteria won’t cause severe dangers to humans, some can cause urinary tract infections, meningitis and even bloodstream infections.

The most common E.Coli Symptoms such as Stomach Cramping, Vomiting, Diarrhea usually start 3-4days after exposure to the E.Coli bacteria in sewage backups.


Leptospirosis is a severe disease that if left untreated can cause meningitis, kidney damage, severe liver damage, respiratory problems and in very rare cases even death of the infected person.

The symptoms of Leptospirosis include very high fever, headaches, vomiting, pain in abdomen, severe diarrhoea and even in some cases rashes. This is also one of the diseases one can get from sewage backups and sewer leaks.

There are many other severe diseases & bacterial infections that are associated with handling raw sewage and sewage backups. Some of the other most common ones are:

  • Encephalitis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Giardiasis
  • Methaemoglobinaemia
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Shigellosis
  • Paratyphoid Fever
  • Yersiniosis
  • Typhoid Fever

Can Inhaling Sewage Backup Make You Sick?

Yes,a lot of the diseases/bacterial infections can become airborne in a case of a sewage backup. Sewage backups also can create extremely toxic sewage gas.

Inhaling these pathogens from sewage backups can lead to a variety of extremely severe symptoms which if left untreated can even cause death.

Here are some of the most common sewage backup exposure symptoms to watch out for:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fatigue.
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dizziness and headaches.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Fever.

in Extreme cases:

  • Unconsciousness

Symptoms of illness show within 12-72 hours but symptoms of sewage gas exposure can appear within minutes to 24 hours depending on the amount.

Sewage Backup?

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Risks Of Sewage Gas

Sewage gas contains many different gases and compounds but some of the most common gases from sewage leaks and backups are hydrogen sulfide, methane and ammonia.

Hydrogen sulfide can be identified if you smell a rotten-egg odor. It isn’t very toxic at small levels but it can still cause symptoms like sickness, disorientation and organ damage or death if exposed to high doses.

Ammonia can cause irritation of the eyes, mouth, nose and throat as well as disorientation. In high doses, it may damages organs like the lungs and can cause death.

Methane can be dangerous even if it isn’t a high dose as it is highly flammable. Hydrogen sulfide is also very flammable, which creates a risk of gas explosion if it is ignited by sparks or an open flame.

These Gases from sewage backups also can carry pathogens from the sewage making them air-borne causing chest infections or other diseases if inhaled.

Risks Of Electrocution

As for all water leaks including sewage backups, a big hazard is electrocution which is caused by water mixing with electrical outputs like plug sockets.

Water mixing with electricals can cause electrical fires from sparks, electric shocks or if the current is powerful enough, even death.

Electrical shocks can be painful as it can cause numbness, weakness and ongoing pain. Burns are also painful and can leave permanent scars.

To minimise the hazard you should turn off the electrical supply near the affected area and if you suspect the sewage backup/leak might be electrified stay away.

Is It Safe To Stay In House After Sewage Backup?

It is advised to leave your house in a severe sewage backup and contact a professional cleanup team as there are many health hazards such as gas inhalation, gas explosion, illness from pathogens or electrocution.

If this is not possible, and you are going to clean it up yourself everyone in the house should still leave as you gather the equipment needed to clean up the sewage backup.

Should You Clean Up Sewage Backups Yourself?

In case of a very minor small sewage backup leak, it’s possible to clean it up yourself fairly successfully.

This is as long as you have the proper protective equipment and have a place where to dispose of the collected sewage backup.

Precautions To Take If Cleaning Up Sewage Backups Yourself

Firstly, make sure electrics are turned off so it avoids sparks mixing with any flammable sewage gases to prevent any explosions or fires.

Also, turn off your water supply to stop the issue from continuing if it is a burst sewage pipe.

When cleaning sewage yourself you must be prepared by wearing correct personal protective equipment such as goggles, a mask or respirator, appropriate clothing like hazmat suits, waterproof gloves and rubber boots.

Make sure the area you are cleaning is well ventilated so you aren’t breathing in harmful gases or any airborne pathogens.

Don’t touch any sewage with just your skin as this is what creates a risk of infection.

Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth and check all wounds are covered properly and do not come in contact with the sewage.  If the water has touched your skin you should stop and bathe wherever possible.

Ensure hygiene like hand-washing and cleaning equipment with disinfectant takes place before and after removal. This includes not eating, drinking or chewing gum.

If You Have Been Exposed To Sewage Backup and are experiencing any of the symptoms listed in this article it’s important to monitor yourself closely & anyone else in your family and seek immediate medical help when necessary.

Dangers Of Sewage Backups In Basement

Sewage backups in basements are most commonly caused by Sewer line clogs or severe line damage as well as during Heavy Rains or flood situations.

When cleaning a sewage backup in the basement it’s extremely important to clean it up as soon as possible and not let it sit there for a prolonged time.

The danger of Electrocution after a sewage backup is probably one of the most common ones in basements.

When cleaning sewage backups in basement don’t forget to clean your basement floor drains. This is where some of the sewage backup can flow to. If left unnoticed this can cause bacteria to thrive and spread.

If the basement is unfinished, one way to effectively clean and sanitize it is by washing it with a diluted bleach solution.

In case you have a Carpet in your basement that has soaked up the sewage backup, in most cases the carpet will need to be disposed of.

It’s extremely hard to clean carpets after sewage backups and they are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

When To Call A Professional?

In case of a sewage backup it’s extremely important to clean it up as fast as possible. There are many risks involved with sewage backups and exposure, especially if they haven’t been cleaned up effectively.

Sewage backups can cause expensive or permanent damage to your health or home.

In most cases of large sewage backups, it would be advisable to contact a professional as soon as possible. Usually this is not a job that can be done by someone inexperienced effectively.

Professional teams have the equipment to effectively remove the sewage and remove any hazard to health.

They can also safely repair any damage to your property that has been caused by the sewage backup itself.

We have Water Damage Restoration & Sewage Cleanup Technicians that can help deal with the Sewage backups & Repair any damage caused.

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