What are Nitrates doing in my drinking water?

What are Nitrates doing in my drinking water?

Are you concerned about Nitrates in your drinking water? Here's what you need to know:

What are Nitrates?

Nitrates are a naturally occurring chemical compound. All rainfall and groundwater aquifers contain some nitrate-nitrogen.

What are Nitrates used for?

The main use for Nitrates is agricultural fertilizers. Think huge single-crop farms. 

nitrates agricultural fertilizer corn

A typical single-crop Corn field that uses Nitrates as fertilizing material.

How do Nitrates get into the drinking water system?

Nitrate accumulates in agricultural watersheds where farmers spread inorganic fertilizers and animal manures on cropland. Nitrogen not taken up by crops can leach through the soil to groundwater and then flow to recharge areas or private wells.

What are the health effects of consuming Nitrates?

Consuming Nitrates at or above toxic levels can have the following affects:

In infants methemoglobinemia, or "blue-baby syndrome" can occur. This happens when infants (typically 0-4 months old) consume nitrates which then become nitrites in their stomach which then bind to oxygen in their red blood cells. This chemical reaction can result in suffocation of the infant. 

Pregnant women can pass methemoglobin on to developing fetuses and low birth weights have been attributed to high nitrates in water. However, nursing mothers do not pass nitrites to infants via their milk.

Children between the ages of 12 to 14 have shown delayed reactions to light and sound stimuli from drinking water containing greater than 105 mg/l of nitrate.

How can I reduce Nitrate exposure?

Of course the most obvious solution would be to use a water source that contains the least amount of Nitrates as possible. If you're unsure of your water's Nitrate concentrations then consider the following options:

An ion exchange system.

A reverse osmosis system. 

Or a home pitcher filter rated to reduce Nitrate levels.