Special Report #2:

Nitrates, Nitrites, Nitrogen: Health Hazard
and Water Testing and Test Kits


Water Research Center

Nitrates + Nitrite In
Drinking Water

Mr. Brian Oram, PG
B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.

The Water Research Center is a strong supporter of environmental education and the company feels privileged to make available this informational fact sheet for free as a means of environmental education, awareness, and outreach.  In partial fulfillment of that obligation we are proud to make this report available to YOU.  There are a number of contaminants that threaten the safety and quality of our nations drinking water, but none seem so benign as nitrates. Nitrates are a form of nitrogen. Nitrogen is need by every living plant and animal and can be found in the soil, air we breath, rain and the water we drink. Nitrogen is usually present in the form of ammonia (NH3),nitrite (NO2), and nitrate (NO3), so how could this essential element be a concern.

The Concern

If infants drinking baby formula or water that contains an elevated level of nitrate or nitrite the baby could die from the disease "methemoglobinema". Current research suggests that long-term exposure to nitrates in drinking water may cause the development of cancer. I hope that these potential concerns make your read on and learn more about nitrates. What is "Methemoglobinema" anyway?

"When an infant consumes formula made with nitrate or nitrite contaminated water, the nitrates are converted in the child’s stomach to nitrite. The nitrite is then absorbed into the body and reacts with the blood (hemoglobin) to form methemoglobin. Since hemoglobin carries the oxygen throughout the body and methemoglobin can not carry oxygen, the infant can suffocate due to lack of oxygen". This is why this is sometimes known as "Blue Baby Syndrome"

Cancer Concern:

The concern over the ability of nitrates to cause cancer is unclear. Once in the body the nitrate or nitrite can form a serious of nitrogen compounds that have been tested and shown to be cancer causing agents in laboratory animals. Currently, there is no direct evidence that nitrate-contaminated drinking water causes cancer, but it is recommended that you reduce your exposure to these compounds.

The Source:

A recent study conduct by the EPA estimated that over 600,000 household had nitrate levels above the safe drinking water standard of 10 milligram NO3-N per liter (nitrate as nitrogen) and a study by the US Geological Survey showed that at least   6 % of the nations rural wells exceeded the drinking water standard. The primary sources of nitrogen:

Sources include:

Farming/Landscaping: excessive or improper fertilizer use and improper storage of manure
Land Development: inadequate stormwater management and erosion protection
On-lot Septic Systems: improper siting, design, and maintenance
Landscaping fertilizers for lawn maintenance
Airborne sources of NOx

Nitrate contamination is typically a problem in agricultural areas, but other rural non-agricultural communities are also at risk.

Nitrate Removal:

The only ways to prevent nitrate contamination of a water supply include: proper siting of water system, proper management of fertilizers and manure, proper well construction (sanitary wells), and install point-of-use water treatment devices. The primary water treatment devices for nitrate removal include: ion exchange resins, distillation, and reverse osmosis.  It is critical that you have your water tested for this contaminant.

References or other resources

Other Reports are available for FREE.
Free Report # 1- Giardia in Drinking Water
Free Report # 3- Lead in Drinking Water
Homeowners Guide to Drinking Water Test and Testing- What do I test for?
Newest Website - The MTBE Fact Sheet
Newest Website - Arsenic In Groundwater  
Newest Website - Trihalomethanes

Water Treatment Systems
Nitrate Treatment Systems (Whole House)
Up to 1,000,000 gallons

Online Training Courses

LEED- AP / Green Associate Training/ Professional Development Hours Courses

Alternative Energy and Green Technologies

 Water Treatment, Wastewater Treatment,
and Stormwater Design, Operation, and Management

National Drillers Training Courses
Drilling Safety, Monitoring Well Design/ Install,
and Groundwater Basics 

Water Well Design (other training provider)


For More information about the Water Research Center, 
please contact:

 Attn: Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist (PG)
Water Research Center
B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.
15 Hillcrest Drive
Dallas, PA 18612

Home | Technology Outreach Program |  Drinking Water Help Guides | Contact Us
 Available Test Parameters   
 Research Interests, Funded Research and Applied Research 
  Homeowner Information Water Testing
 Environmental Topics - Infiltration, Permeability, Soil Science, 
 Wellhead Protection, Groundwater, Watersheds
 PowerPoint Presentations

Continuing Education Courses - OSHA Training, Engineers, Geologists,
Sustainability, Architects, LEED Professionals

Watershed Monitoring, Research, Training,
Lake and Watershed Studies, Citizen Monitoring, Volunteer Monitoring Programs

 The Water Library - Pdf files on Water Issues and Topics
 Tools for Environmental Professionals, Citizens, and Students
 Field Training and Workshops in Earth Science
 Affiliations and Hot Links  

Search Our Site

Website Designed by:
Web Design Pros.net

eXTReMe Tracker