Septic Tanks: How We Can Stop Them From Turning Into Lethal Gas Chambers

In February 2020, five people were injured when a septic tank exploded due to the accumulation of toxic gases in Dharavi, Mumbai. Another case in Odisha was reported where a sanitation worker died of asphyxiation after entering a septic tank. The most recent fatality was reported in August in Jharkhand where 6 people died after inhaling toxic gases in a septic tank. The number of deaths caused due to septic tank gas poisoning or septic systems turning into lethal gas chambers is indeed shocking.

Surprisingly, close to three decades ago in the year 1993, the Government of India enacted the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act which prohibited the employment of manual scavengers from manually cleaning dry latrines. It also prohibited the construction of dry toilets, which operate without a flush. And yet such unfortunate and avoidable fatalities due to septic tank gas poisoning continue to occur at a depressing regularity in India.

Septic Tanks & Toxic Gas Formation

A large amount of waste is generated from households, industries, and commercial spaces, most of which ends up in septic tanks. Generally, the solid waste is acted upon by naturally occurring microbes in the septic tank and the resultant effluent is released into the drainage. Most of the times, inappropriately designed septic tanks and inadequate septic tank volume adds to the woes. Furthermore, the use of chemical cleaners in large quantities kills beneficial microbes which break down organic waste thus leading to septic tank dysfunction.

The enclosed septic tanks with incompletely decomposed waste and sewage water result in the accumulation of toxic gases, hazardous fumes, and vapour leading to septic tank gas poisoning. Thus, it develops into potentially harmful and poisonous gases for human beings. When scavengers enter these tanks, they get exposed to lethal levels of these gases. Coupled with a lack of oxygen in an enclosed space, this leads to physical discomfort, disease and death.

Typically, the following are the primary gases or components present in a septic tank:

Methane – When organic matter in the waste is decomposed in the absence of oxygen, methane gas is generated. The enclosed area of the septic tank subsequently fills with methane and an oxygen-deficient space is created. In such a situation, methane – a colourless, explosive, and highly flammable gas accumulate in the septic tank, leading to possible explosions.


Hydrogen Sulphide – Hydrogen sulphide is another by-product of digestion of septage in the absence of oxygen. It is easily soluble in water, it is dissolved in sewage inside sludge and sediment formed in the septic tank as gas pockets. When anyone disturbs the sludge or sediment, the dissolved gas is released thus harming the individual. Usually, hydrogen sulphide has a rotten egg smell.

See Also:

Other than the mentioned gases, sewage may contain toxic gases like ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide depending upon various factors like temperature, pH, composition performance, and time. Septic tank system failure due to the absence of gas exhausts, lack of maintenance, drain backups, pipe leaks, and excessive use of chemicals can also lead to the formation and accumulation of toxic gases. Exposure to septic tank gas poisoning for a long time can cause eye irritation, breathing issues, cough, loss of consciousness, asphyxiation, and even death. It can cause hypoxic damage to vital body organs that cannot be treated and is usually an irreversible medical condition.

Thus, it can be clearly seen that septic tanks are death traps for a common man. The Government of India has clearly laid down rules which say manual scavenging or sanitation-related work is only allowed in case of emergency and that too with adequate safety gear and precautions. Moreover, an ambulance must be at the spot while the work is being carried out.

Septic Tank Cleaning and Maintenance


Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped septic tank gas poisoning related deaths in the country. According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, 110 cases of death were reported in 2019, the highest in the last 5 years. It is now necessary to look at possible innovative solutions to stop such mishaps from happening again. As per experts, there are existing solutions to prevent the problem of septic tank failure due to the accumulation of excessive waste. Biological solutions are now being considered to solve the septic tank gas poisoning problem once and for all. This would help in cutting the problem from its root and save precious lives.

Organica Biotech is one of the leading companies with an excellent range of sustainable biological solutions and it includes amazing products for solving septic tank challenges as well. Bioclean Septic and Bioclean Septic Plus are special microbial solutions for septic tank treatment that aggressively degrade organic waste. They ably minimize the sludge buildup and thus prevents choke-ups in a septic tank. The other highlights of these unique septic tank cleaners include the action of degrading organic blockages in pipes, leach pits, and stone wall, eliminating odor-causing bacteria. Bioclean Septic and Bioclean Septic Plus can help you reduce the need for frequent pump outs and put an end to manual scavenging. It is the simplest and best remedy for the prevention of septic tank toxic gas formation as well. Across the country, many have used Organica Biotech products and successfully solved septic tank and clogged drain problems.

Also Read:
Septic Tanks 101: Everything You Ever Wanted Or Didn’t Want To Know
Septic Tanks: How We Can Stop Them From Turning Into Lethal Gas Chambers
You Know You Have A Septic Tank When…


Image Source: Livemint

Also read: How Chemical Cleaners Are Damaging Your Septic Tank And What’s The Best Solution

Also read: How Poor Sanitation Situation In Ghana Is a Major Cause For Concern

Also read: How To Make Your Septic System Eco-Friendly?

Also read: Cleaning Septic Tanks Without Loss Of Life

Also read: Your Guide to Protecting Your Septic Tank During the Rainy Season

Post by Kiranjyot