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What to do when you smell sewer gas in your home

A sewer gas smell in a home is pungent, unpleasant, and nearly impossible to ignore, as well as a strong sign that something is potentially amiss in a home’s plumbing. A fouler scent similar rotten eggs, sewer gas smell is, at best, an uninvited nuisance, and, at worse, a potential health risk. This is why, when a gas smell is first detected, it’s better to find out what’s causing it and how to address it, rather than leaving it alone and hoping it goes away by itself.

What’s That Smell?

a sign warning that hydrogen sulfide may be present in the area

Sewer gas smell is actually a specific gas—hydrogen sulfide. This gas is caused by the natural decay of organic material, created as a byproduct of the bacteria breaking the material down. Because hydrogen sulfide is made of heavier gases than the air mixture we breathe, it tends to sink, hovering lower to the ground. In residential homes, a functioning sewer system utilizes a vent system connected to the sewer line that directs sewer gas up and out of a home through a vent in the roof, preventing occupants from regularly being exposed to the sewer gas. Exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide, as indicated by the sewer gas smell, can cause eye irritation, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, dizziness, irritability, and issues with memory. Though extremely uncommon in residential homes, and more readily probable in industrial areas where hydrogen sulfide is a byproduct of commercial manufacturing, high-level exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause all of the above symptoms, as well as rapid loss of consciousness, and potentially death.

Health Risks

Because of the health risks, it’s vitally important to narrow down where the gas smell is emanating from in the home. A strong candidate for the source of the sewer gas smell is in the basement—specifically, the floor drain. A dried-out seal can cause the smell to backdraft up and into the home. Additionally, an improperly sealed sump pump can similarly leak sewage odors. Working up into the home, the sewer gas ventilation system tied to the main home sewage system is another common source of trouble. If the rooftop vent has been blocked, such as by a bird or small animal’s nest, or if the vent has been damaged or cracked by inclement weather, it can cause the sewage gases to not vent properly, and instead, blowback into the home. A quick way to determine if the vent pipe is the source of sewage odor is if the drains throughout the home are bubbling back up while draining, or draining slowly.

What To Do

While homeowners can diagnose the source of a sewer gas smell on their own, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the smell. Because of this, coupled with the health risks, it’s generally best to contact a plumbing professional to thoroughly test and diagnose the exact issue causing the gas smell in the home. With access to more specialized tools and training, it will be easier for a plumbing professional to find out exactly what is wrong, and take care of the issue before it gets out of hand. If you start to notice the smell of sewer gas in your home, and you’re unable to find where it’s coming from, give the experts at Duane Blanton a call, at (815) 781-2567, for advice and to schedule a home inspection. Also available online through their online scheduling portal, the professional plumbers at Duane Blanton Plumbing can answer any questions, diagnose the cause, and suggest a fix to banish the foul sewer odor from your home once and for all.

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