What are the Effects of Nitrates in Drinking Water?


Nitrates, while necessary to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers, can also contaminate your home’s water. Here are the effects of nitrates in drinking water and how you can best prevent them from leaving your tap.

Nitrogen is essential for all living things to survive. It exists in our environment, and is constantly changing forms as it moves through nitrogen cycle.

Farmers apply nitrogen via fertilizer to grow the fruits and vegetables we eat every day. It’s also used for garden and lawn care, and occurs naturally in the soil from decaying plant and animal residues.

When nitrogen is applied to soil, bacteria will convert some of it into nitrates, which, on the whole, is good for plant growth. Plants absorb most nitrogen in the form of nitrates.

But nitrates are also ultra-soluble in water, so excessive rainfall or over-irrigated soil can allow nitrates to leach below a plant’s root zone and pollute groundwater. This makes it one of the most common groundwater contaminants in rural areas.

This poses a problem for the significant percentage of the U.S. population that uses well water; especially vulnerable are those near livestock facilities and sewage disposal areas.

Nitrates Health Risks

Nitrates, when consumed, are particularly dangerous for pregnant and nursing women, infants and the elderly.

If consumed by infants less than six months of age, nitrates can lead to blue baby syndrome, which causes veins and skin to appear blue because blood cannot carry sufficient oxygen to body cells.

In addition, long-term exposure to nitrates, even low levels of it, has been linked to cancer in every animal species tested.

Because nitrates can not be detected by sight, smell or taste, and because boiling does not eliminate them from water, the only way to know if your water is safe is to schedule a water test. Laboratory testing achieves the most accurate and reliable results.

How To Achieve Safe Nitrate Levels

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caps acceptable levels of nitrates at 10 mg/L as the maximum contaminant level.

If nitrates are present in your water, so may other types of unwanted pesticides and bacteria, like E. Coli, which can lead to health problems and disease.

A water test will indicate whether your water contains nitrates and any other contaminants.

If Nitrates are present, there are three ways you can remove it: by distillation, reverse osmosis and ion exchange. Hire a reliable water equipment and treatment expert; they’ll tailor your new water system to meet your exact needs.

Note that water softeners, adsorption filters and mechanical filters do not remove nitrates.

Schedule a water test with your local Culligan Man today.

Better water is one call away. Get started with a free water test from your local Culligan Man.