Health Effects of Breathing in Raw Sewage

“Raw sewage can be a serious health risk particularly if it enters drinking water or even water that is used for fishing and swimming. The pathogens related to untreated sewage are bacteria, parasites and viruses that are most commonly associated with acute illnesses like diarrhea. However, there is one virus that can cause an acute respiratory illness which are the adenoviruses (but they are also associated with illnesses such as gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis and rash illness).

The symptoms of respiratory illness caused by the adenovirus from untreated sewage can range from the common cold to pneumonia, croup and bronchitis. Those persons with compromised immune systems could be at serious risk of complications related to the adenovirus. If one is also in a condition of stress and overcrowding, he/she can develop acute respiratory disease (ARD). Some adenoviruses, like Adv36 (AD-36) may be associated with causing obesity.”

Top 10 Health Risks of Sewage Damage Exposure

Sewage damage is one of the most dangerous, and most costly, catastrophes that can happen to a home or business owner. Most people do not realize how dangerous exposure to sewage contamination can be to their family or colleagues.

Below is a list of pathogens and allergens that fester in sewage waste. Each danger is accompanied by its symptom in an attempt to educate property owners on the potential dangers of contamination.


Usually single-celled, parasitic life forms microscopic in size. Most genera cause decay, fermentation and disease. Below is a list of common bacteria found in raw sewage.

Campylobacter jejuni

A microaerophilic bacteria known as one of, if not the most, common cause of gastroenteritis. Long-term effects include could arthritis and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) if not treated immediately.
*Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system, causing ascending paralysis.

(Escherichia coli) E. coli

A Gram-negative bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine. Symptoms bloody diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting.


A Gram-negative bacterium known to survive without the need of a host. This makes salmonella one of the more threatening genera of bacteria in raw sewage. Sufferers could experience symptoms of gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever and other common ails of food poisoning.



Cause respiratory infections like pneumonia, croup and bronchitis. Also known to cause severe eye infections.

HPV (human papillomavirus)

Normally knows as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), HPV can also infect humans when exposed to raw sewage. Along with wart growth, HPV is known to cause cervical, anal and genital cancer.

Norwalk Viru

Known to cause 90% of the world’s non-bacterial gastroenteritis outbreaks.


This viral strain can cause severe diarrhea and high fevers.



A protozoan parasite which causes Cryptosporidiosis. “Crypto” causes severe diarrhea in people with healthy immune systems. Immune Deficient patients’ symptoms are far worse and often fatal.


An anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasite that colonizes in the small intestines. Symptoms included acute gas, severe diarrhea, dehydration, vitamin malabsorption and chronic weight loss.

Roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides)

Parasite caused disease known as Ascariasis while blocking the intestinal track. Causes visceral damage, peritonitis and inflammation of the body. Malabsorption will degenerate into malnutrition and anorexia in the infected individual.

Tapeworm (Helmiths worm)

Tapeworm actually feeds on intestinal track. Risks include vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, weight loss and, in extreme cases, severe neurological damage (ie. Seizures)