Clogged sewer lines are inconvenient, but they can also be dangerous. Most clogged lines are immediately obvious because of the odor or visible back up of sewage into the plumbing fixtures. Because the clog is identifiable and correctable, most of the dangers posed by the clogged line are avoidable.
Back up Material in Home
Often the first sign of a clogged sewer line is the appearance of sewage material in the home or yard. In the home, the backup will occur on the lowest floor level in the basement, bathtub, toilets or sinks. Waste in the yard can be easier to overlook, but a clog can be the culprit when you discover wet puddles that cannot be accounted for by rainfall or notice a sewer smell in the yard. Slow moving drains, including difficult to flush toilets, can also indicate a potential clog or partial clog that should be further investigated before the clog gets more serious.
Clogged sewer lines can allow a distinctive odor to be released into the home or building, particularly if the clog is located in a vent pipe. The vent pipe allows outside air to be sucked back into the plumbing system to keep the system moving. When these pipes are clogged, the needed air must be siphoned from the plumbing fixtures, which will often lead to the water being cleared from fixture traps with the force of the suction. These dry fixture traps, such as the kitchen sink trap, allow odor to escape from the sewer or septic system.
Illness from Sewer Gas
Sewer gas that can be released into the home from a clogged line can lead to several illnesses. Sewer gas contains hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, both of which are dangerous when inhaled. Exposure for extended periods can lead to hydrogen sulfide poisoning, decreased blood oxygen levels and illness from bacteria, viruses or parasites. Sewer gas exposure can produce symptoms such as eye and throat irritation, nausea, headache, dizziness and confusion.
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