Nitrates in Your Drinking Water: Sources, Health Effects, and Water Treatment Solution

Nitrates in Your Drinking Water: Sources, Health Effects, and Water Treatment Solution

Nitrate contamination in drinking water is a matter of significant concern, particularly for vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women and infants.

In the United States, approximately 45 million people, constituting around 14% of the population, relied on self-supplied water sources for their residences in 2010. A noteworthy aspect is that nearly all of these self-supplied sources, approximately 98%, were derived from private wells. But Nitrate is a chemical compound found in both public water supplies and private wells.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore nitrate in drinking water. We'll explore its sources, health effects, and ways to protect yourself and your family.

The Facts about Nitrates

  • Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds found in rainfall and groundwater aquifers. However, they can become a concern in rural areas, particularly where agricultural practices are prevalent.

  • In such regions, nitrates accumulate in water sources due to inorganic fertilizers and animal manure.

  • These nitrates can leach into groundwater and affect private wells.

  • Homeowners using lawn fertilizers and on-lot septic systems can accidentally introduce nitrates into their drinking water.

Health Effects of Nitrates

Health Effects of Nitrates

The primary health concern associated with nitrates in drinking water is methemoglobinemia or "blue-baby syndrome." This condition predominantly affects infants between 0-4 months old.

When these infants consume nitrate-contaminated water, nitrates are converted to nitrites in their stomachs.

Nitrites bind to oxygen molecules in red blood cells, leading to oxygen depletion and suffocation.

Symptoms include bluish skin discoloration, especially around the eyes and mouth.

Note: It's worth noting that once infants reach six months of age, they are no longer at risk of methemoglobinemia because the nitrate-converting bacteria in their stomachs disappear. However, nitrates in drinking water can still affect certain adults and small children.

Pregnant women can pass methemoglobin on to developing fetuses, and high nitrates are linked to low birth weights.

Some studies have indicated delayed reactions to light and sound stimuli in children aged 12 to 14 who consume water with nitrate levels exceeding 105 mg/l.


Some studies have even suggested a potential link between drinking water contaminated with nitrates and an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects. Therefore, if you are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant, it is advisable not to consume water with nitrate levels exceeding 10 mg/L.

Studies suggest a link between nitrate/nitrite exposure and increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, abdominal cramps, and possibly an elevated risk of certain cancers, such as gastric cancer.
Cardiovascular Effects:

Nitrate and nitrite exposure have mainly cardiovascular effects associated with nitrate-containing medications, such as nitroglycerin.

  • In certain occupational settings, individuals exposed to nitroglycerin and aliphatic nitrates have reported angina-like pain, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and cardiovascular death.

  • Recent studies have explored the cardiovascular benefits of dietary inorganic nitrates in promoting cardiovascular health.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a standard for nitrate in drinking water at 10 milligrams of nitrate (measured as nitrogen) per liter of drinking water (mg/L). Drinking water with nitrate levels below 10 mg/L is safe for everyone.

  1. Delay introducing high-nitrate vegetables to babies (such as beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, spinach, and turnips) until the baby is at least seven months old.
  2. Do not boil your well water if it contains high levels of nitrate. Boiling water kills bacteria but increases nitrate concentrations in the water because nitrates do not evaporate when heated.
  3. Be aware that nitrate levels in wells vary seasonally. If you have a private well and are uncertain about water quality, use bottled water for food, drinks, and baby formula. it can be costly.

Water treatment for Nitrate

Water treatment for Nitrate

There are various treatment methods available, including:

  • Ion Exchange Units: These units work like household water softeners. They exchange chloride ions for nitrate and sulfate ions in the water. However, they are less effective if your water has high sulfate levels.

  • Reverse Osmosis: This process uses a semipermeable membrane to filter out nitrates. It can remove up to 90% of incoming nitrates.

  • Distillation: This traditional method involves boiling, cooling, and condensing water to remove impurities, including nitrates. It can be slow and energy-intensive.

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Nitrates in drinking water can pose health risks, particularly for infants and pregnant women. Understanding the sources and health effects of nitrates is crucial for safeguarding your Family's health. The EPA's recommended nitrate level is 10 mg/L, but additional water testing can reveal potential contaminants beyond the EPA's monitoring. 

With the right water treatment methods and innovative solutions like the 5 Stage Reverse Osmosis System and the Life Sciences Alkaline Water Purifying Generator, you can ensure your Family enjoys clean, safe, and healthy drinking water. 

Don't compromise on water quality – make informed choices to protect your loved ones.visit LifeSciencesWater