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Nitrates In Drinking Water | What Do Nitrates Do To The Human Body?

Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound formed when nitrogen combines with oxygen (ozone). Living beings need a small number of nitrates to survive.

It is more interesting than you cannot smell, taste, or see these compounds in water. If nitrates are consumed and found at high levels, they can be hazardous to health, especially for babies and pregnant women. They are made in large amounts by animals and plants. It is released into our atmosphere through industrial smoke and human sewage.

Where And How Does Nitrate Get Into Drinking Water?

In the U.S, Nitrate levels have significantly doubled since the 1920s, after the nitrogen-rich artificial fertilizers and animal manures were introduced. The high combustion of fossil fuels ignited it further.

Also, replacing our natural vegetation with nitrogen-fixed plantations intensified the problems ahead. This affected the underground water system as it contaminated and increased nitrate levels. Inappropriate construction of wells, unplanned and improper human waste disposal, excessive weathering of inorganic fertilizers have worsened the situation further.

Floods, fertilizer run-off, wastewater treatment plants, industrial or automotive exhaust, or unhygienic food disposals make the situation most unguarded.

What Do Nitrates Do To The Human Body?

What do nitrates do to the human body

Nitrates are abundantly found in our environment. It constitutes 72% of our atmosphere. Although it seems complicated and exorbitant to monitor the nitrogen brought in through various sources, the time and situation need attention to this matter.

Nitrates may take us back to our school days and those chemistry lessons taught about these nitrogen-rich fertilizers. But considering human health, they are found toxic in many ways. It is one of the reasons these nitrates have been banned from their use, even as preservatives in food articles.

What may come as a surprise to many is that the nitrogen constitutes maximum in our atmospheric air itself but still can be harmful if ingested in higher values with drinking water. They say it is dangerous to babies and women who are expecting; the truth is, it simply is harmful to everyone’s health regardless of any age or gender.

Consuming higher levels of nitrates primarily affects the ability of our blood to carry oxygen. Recent studies have shown the growing effects of nitrates/nitrites on human health. It is believed to impact the heart rate causes nausea, abdominal cramps, and cancer.

Majorly, nitrates cause:


There is a lot of risk for colon cancer if our drinking water is not clean and found with excessive nitrate values. It can add to cancer-causing compounds leading to severe conditions.

A nitrate causes the endogenous transformation of these harmful carcinogenic compounds. Despite colon cancer, it has been associated with other types of cancer, but the adversity doesn’t stop us from thinking on those lines.

If nitrate levels in your stored water are found high, it is advised to put efforts to lower the same or avoid long-term use of water in cooking.

Besides cancer, there have been studies proving they cause glioma and thyroid-related cancers.


Nitrates in higher concentrations are found to challenge thyroid functions. They interrupt the smooth functioning of the thyroid and block the iodine uptake. Lower thyroid levels are usually associated with fatigue, dry and etched skin, weight gain, goiters, and hair loss.

It is suggested to avoid long-term use of water if nitrate levels are found high in drinking water, especially while you cook.

Birth Defects

This is a type of congenital disability. Neural tube defects are the cause of higher nitrate levels in drinking water. Such defects occur during early pregnancy.

In areas where water nitrate levels are mismanaged, it is advised to avoid that untreated water for drinking and cooking. If you are pregnant or plan to have a family ahead, there is no option other than avoiding nitrate-contaminated water. Pregnant women found consuming higher nitrate during their respective time delivered babies with defects like oral cleft and limb deformities.

Several studies have been conducted to prove the direct association of higher nitrate levels in drinking water to such ailments in newborn babies to those born normally to mothers with less exposure to nitrate in drinking water.

Blue Baby Syndrome

Nitrate can convert our hemoglobin to methemoglobin. It is another serious ailment caused by increased nitrate levels. The higher levels can turn human skin bluish or grey.

It may cause serious health issues such as dizziness, fatigue, heart failure, raised pulse, and weakness. In babies, the nitrate interaction differs, which may lead to more serious illness.

Moreover, diarrhea can worsen this situation progressively, causing coma and even death in some cases if there is any failed attempt to recognize or treat this condition.

What Is The Safe Level Of Nitrates In Drinking Water?

Looking at the serious repercussions, monitoring and analyzing the situation with the best solutions is important. The foremost is minimizing nitrates or related compounds in the food industry and maintaining a safe nitrate level, especially in drinking water.

Nitrate levels below 10mg/L are considered safe for everyone. To achieve such good nitrate compounds, it is essential to maintain the same through prescribed and standard procedures that help eliminate these toxins.

How Do You Remove Nitrates From Drinking Water?


There are many methods of treating dirt nitrate-rich drinking water to safe and healthy consumable drinking water.

  1. Get your water line tested for nitrates, arsenic, coliform bacteria, manganese, and lead every year.
  2. If you practice farming or any other activity that may lead to nitrate exposure into your wells or source of drinking water, try to keep them at bay. Keep your septic systems clean, try nitrate-free fertilizers and properly dump the animal waste maintaining hygiene standards in mind.
  3. Inspect your wells, pipelines, and water purifying systems for any damages or leakages.
  4. Choose a sustainable and safe alternate nitrate-free source for water that can be bottled or through purifiers.
  5. Don’t boil out nitrates from water as they may get more concentrated. Hire a licensed contractor to inspect either of your purifiers or wells.
  6. Water treating processes such as ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis are the best to try for healthy water consumption.

Final Word

Reverse osmosis remove nitrates from water

Water is an essential part of our lives. Nothing exists without it. Clean and pure water is the most important factor that plays through, and any compromise in the quality is hazardous to human life. If anything lies essential, it is the hygiene and quality of drinking water.

It is about the survival of the fittest, and inappropriate amounts of nitrates can lead to severe ailments. Nitrates are naturally formed, but their higher quantities can make a massive difference to health systems and, of course, humanity. Water contamination plays a considerable role, from cancerous diseases to severe illnesses in newborns to babies fed on bottle-feeding. The only solution to this problem lies in adopting eco-friendly ways and keeping drinking water clean. Bottled water and RO water are advised and a found solution.

If we wish to choose a healthy and hygienic lifestyle for ourselves and our families, cleanliness and purity of water are all that matters!

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