NEWSplash!: Should I Be Concerned About NITRATES?


Should I Be Concerned About NITRATES?

The whole family has been drinking the water and showing no adverse effects, but a new infant comes into the home and becomes severely poisoned by the water. Diagnosis: methhemoglobinanemia or nitrate poisoning.

Because healthy adults can consume high nitrate water with little or no effect, a nitrate problem can go unnoticed for a long time. Very young children, however, especially infants, are susceptible to nitrate poisoning which causes blue baby syndrome.

Boiling water, unfortunately, increases the nitrate level rather than decreases it. Concerned parents who boil their infant’s water should be aware of its nitrate level, since boiling two quarts of water down to one quart will double the nitrate level. After an infant’s digestive system becomes developed, the child is no longer susceptible to nitrate poisoning. As a precautionary measure, children under three, nursing mothers, and pregnant mothers should not consume high nitrate water.

But where do nitrates come from? Although nitrates can occur naturally from decaying organic material such as on-site septic systems, the greatest source of nitrates in most areas is crop fertilizers. Fertilizers typically contain nitrogen compounds which either are in the form of nitrates or turn into nitrates in the soil. These fertilizers produce excellent crop yields, and conversely, they produce elevated nitrate levels in ground water in many rural areas.

Nitrates are water soluble. Once nitrates are applied to the soil, heavy rains can wash any nitrates not used by plant roots into ground water where they are no longer beneficial to plant roots above ground water level. The result is local wells that are contaminated with nitrates.

Nitrate levels are affected by rain patterns and fertilizer application by local farmers. Heavy rainfall can increase or even decrease nitrates in a well, and nitrate results, like other parameter results, can vary greatly. Therefore, regular testing for nitrates is recommended. When selling a property with an on-site well, be sure the buyer understands these variations can occur.

Nitrates cannot be removed from water by such treatments as UV lights, chlorinators, carbon filters, water softeners, iron filters, and neutralizers. Nitrates can be removed by properly designed distillers, RO systems, and anion exchange systems. Whereas distillers and RO systems are only suitable for point of use (i.e., one or two faucets in the home), anion exchange systems remove nitrates from the whole house.

Nitrate specific resin should be used with anion exchange systems to prevent the possibility of a maladjusted or malfunctioning anion exchange system from increasing the nitrate level due to sulfate exchange. We recommend that persons shopping for nitrate removal systems shop carefully and purchase only from a dealer experienced in nitrate removal.