The headline of Star Tribune reporter Tony Kennedy's article tells it all: Minnesota Health Department calls nitrates 'growing chemical threat'' to drinking water.
A new report by the Minnesota Department of Health calls agriculture-related nitrate pollution a “growing chemical threat to Minnesota’s drinking water.”
Community water supplies, overall, are safe and closely monitored, according to the agency’s Drinking Water Annual Report for 2014. But the report highlighted widespread — and often costly — efforts to prevent or reverse nitrate pollution in well water drawn by municipal and quasi-public water systems — those used by schools, businesses, resorts, restaurants and other places.
Nitrate, a compound of nitrogen and oxygen, comes from many sources, including manure, septic systems and natural decomposition of organic matter. But the report said fertilizers applied to land used for row-crop production “are the biggest influence on Minnesota’s ground and surface water nitrate levels.”
Waters affected by nitrogen fertilizer may also contain pesticides, the report said.
“Without sustained prevention efforts, effective treatment and continued vigilance … health conditions related to nitrate in drinking water could once again become a threat to Minnesotans’ health,” the report said.
Research shows the clearest risk of elevated nitrate in drinking water is for infants from birth to six months of age who are fed water or formula made with water. They can develop Blue Baby Syndrome, which reduces oxygen supply in the blood. A University of Minnesota physician discovered the cause-and-effect relationship in the mid-1940s and the state Health Department documented 146 cases and 14 deaths, mostly in southern Minnesota, between 1947 and 1949. . . .
Yeah, it's that kind of threat. Read the rest of Kennedy's excellent article at the Strib.
Here's the document:
Photo: Blue baby dolls. Activists from Kewaunee County, WI, created this image for their struggle over water quality issues. As their website notes: "
In young infants, ingestion of nitrate can reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. In severe cases it can cause a condition that doctors call methemoglobinemia. The condition is also called “blue baby syndrome” because the infant’s skin appears blue-gray or lavender in color. This skin color change is caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. All infants less than 6 months of age are at risk of nitrate toxicity, but premature babies and babies with other health problems are more sensitive than healthy infants. An infant suffering from “blue baby syndrome” needs immediate medical care because the condition can lead to coma and death if it is not treated promptly.
It's a very serious issue.
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