Is Nitrogen Contamination of Water Increasing?
Let’s take a look at the probable causes of the Nitrogen Contamination of Water. Over the decades, the use of Nitrogen fertilizer to assist agricultural production has greatly accelerated. Since the late 1940’s , consumption of fertilizers for agricultural use has increased about five hundred percent (500%) . Some of this increase has been due to over-application of the suggested amounts which are needed to improve fruit & vegetable production. These excess amounts have resulted in runoffs of these chemicals and have found their way into our ground water, rivers, streams, reservoirs, and lakes. Many people have observed these effects as the green algae bloom which is found in lakes, stagnant bodies of water, and even shows up in satellite photos. Upon inspection, significant plumes of algae can be easily observed from space flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
This increase in Nitrogen fertilizers applied to the land, ultimately can lead to the contamination of our drinking water sources. When Nitrogen breaks down chemically it ends up as Nitrates which exist in a vast majority of our rivers, lakes, and underground water sources, primarily in agricultural areas. Municipal water utilities are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are mandated to have no more than 10mg/liter (milligrams/liter) of nitrate/nitrogen concentration, which is considered to be an acceptable limit. Rural populations quite often obtain most of their water from underground wells, and these water sources are not subject to federal or local governmental oversight.
What Nitrogen Levels are Acceptable?
The minimum concentration levels are a definitive way of measuring the nitrogen contamination of water. A Minimum Concentration Level (MCL) of 10 mg/L (10 miligrams per liter) is sometimes exceeded in municipal water treatment, because of the excessive costs to remove it. In the main, however, it will typically be in the range of (2-10 mg/L). In rural environments, and due to the water runoff from agricultural lands, the level may end up being 3-10 times higher than the governmental specified Minimum Concentration Level.
Health Studies Point to Medical Conditions Related to Nitrogen Compounds
Many health studies have pointed to the fact that increased Nitrogen/Nitrate consumption may be contributing to a variety of very unfavorable medical conditions including diabetes, thyroid problems and possibly a higher risk for cancerous diseases. Persons who are concerned about these negative effects should seek out reliable medical scientific studies reflecting the problems with excess Nitrates in our food and drinking water supplies. You might want to check with your local water system provider to see what Nitrogen levels they measure and consider acceptable.
How can I Determine the Levels of Nitrogen/Nitrates in My Water Supply?
If your are on a municipal water system, contact them and see what testing they have done, and how you might be able to see the results. Some municipalities publish this information in newsletters or annual summaries or have it available on-line. If you are unsure of your personal exposure to Nitrogen/Nitrates and you are on a well-based water source, or other non-municipal water system, you may wish to avail yourself of water testing kits that are commercially available and will help you to identify elevated levels of Nitrogen/Nitrates in your drinking water.
How Does the Nitrogen that I Ingest Affect My Well Being?
How does the nitrogen contamination of water affect your body? It should be noted, that the total of all Nitrogen/Nitrates in your body will be the sum total of these chemicals found in your drinking water, in the food that you eat, and in in some types of prescription drugs. Minimizing any, or all of these sources may improve your health and wellness.