Report Spotlights Nitrate Contamination in Drinking Water Across the U.S.
have known for decades that drinking water contaminated by fertilizer
nitrates can pose a threat to infants by undermining the ability of
their blood to carry oxygen. The condition, known as ‘blue baby
syndrome,” led federal regulators to impose an environmental standard of
no more than 10 parts per million, or ppm, for nitrates in public water
though, some evidence suggests that long-term ingestion of drinking
water with nitrates at just half that federal limit can prove dangerous
to children and adults alike, potentially raising the risk of bladder,
thyroid, kidney, ovarian and colon cancers.
A new report
from the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy
organization, indicates that more than 1,700 water districts across the
U.S. recorded nitrate levels that averaged 5 ppm or more in 2014-2015.
The vast majority — 1,683 of the water districts — were rural systems
serving no more than 25,000 people and generally located in farming
areas where fertilizer and manure in cropland runoff can seep into the
public water supply. Included in those rural districts were 118 systems
that matched or exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limit
of 10 ppm.
The report by EWG, which operates a Tap Water Database enabling consumers to check for hundreds of contaminants
that might be in their water supplies, said that in recent years “much
attention has been given to urban drinking water problems.” But Craig
Cox, EWG’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources,
said when it comes to long-term ingestion of nitrates, “The people who
are most at risk are the people who are living in farming communities.”
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