Home > Technical Library > Drinking Water

Health Effects of Nitrates and Nitrites

What are they? Nitrates and nitrites are chemical compounds commonly used in fertilizers. These fertilizers add nitrogen compounds in the soil, an essential nutrient for growth of plants and crops. These nitrates and nitrites in the soils, not surprisingly, also seep into drinking ground water supplies.

Should you be concerned? Nitrites can cause problems in young children as they bind very strongly to hemoglobin, and can affect the blood’s ability to carry and release oxygen. Nitrates are also converted to nitrites in the digestive tract. This causes shortness of breath, increased susceptibility to illness, heart attacks and in extreme cases death by asphyxiation. Nitrates are usually not a problem for older children and adults.

How can you tell if your water has nitrates in it? The only way is to have the water tested by a reputable laboratory. Excessive nitrates can be treated by a variety of methods. Point of use systems reduces the levels by reverse osmosis filtration, distillation or by a disposable mixed-bed deionizer. One system is very much like a water softening method, using a strong base anionic exchange resin bed rather than the cationic exchange resin bed commonly used for water softening. It is regenerated in a similar way to conventional softeners.

NSF Mark

Certified by NSF International to NSF/ANSI Standard 61.

WQA Member