Nitrite

Definition

Description

Biofilm

Health effects

Livestock health problems

How to eliminate nitrites from your water

Definition

Nitrite is the univalent radical NO2 or a compound containing it, such as a salt or an ester of nitrous acid.


Description

  • Chemical Name: Nitrite

· Regulatory name: Nitrite

  • Molecular formula: NO2-
  • Molecular weight: 46 g/mol


Biofilm

A biofilm is a thin usually resistant layer of microorganisms (as bacteria) that form on and coat various surfaces (as of catheters or water pipes).

The reason why we talk about biofilms here, is because nitrifiers occur predominantly as surface attached biofilms. This means that Nitrosomas could be coating the inside of your water pipes, and therefore producing nitrites that could be polluting your water.

Health effects

When nitrite enters the bloodstream, it reacts with the hemoglobin and forms a compound called methemoglobin. This compound reduces the blood's capacity to carry oxygen. The oxygen level decreases, and babies show signs of a disease called methemoglobinemia also known as “blue baby disease”.

The most obvious symptom of methemoglobinemia is the appearance of a bluish tone on the skin, particularly around the eyes and mouth. If quickly discovered, this disease can be successfully treated with an injection of methylene blue, which changes methemoglobin back to hemoglobin. The condition is extremely serious if it’s not treated: death takes place when 70 per cent of the body's hemoglobin has been converted to methemoglobin.

It has been shown to be a link between babies deaths from methemoglobinemia and high levels of nitrate in water.

Click here for more information about the methemoglobinemia.


Livestock health problems

The rumen is the first division of the stomach of a ruminant animal, in which most food collects immediately after being swallowed and from which it is later returned to the mouth as cud for thorough chewing. Tha bacteria present in the rumen of ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep convert nitrate to nitrite, causing nitrate poisoning.

Pigs and chickens have no rumen, because they are monogastric animals, so they quickly throw out nitrate in their urine. Young monogastric animals, however, are similar to human babies in that they are highly susceptible to nitrate poisoning until their digestive systems develop.

Amongst all the monogastric animals horses are the most susceptible to nitrate poisoning because they have a large cecum which acts as a rumen, converting nitrate to nitrite.

High nitrate levels can be found in plants due to overfertilization or stress. This can harm livestock much more than if the nitrate is ingested when drinking water with high nitrate concentration.

Some of the symptoms of methemoglobinemia in animals are troubles in coordination, difficulties in breathing, blue coloring of mucous membranes, vomiting and abortions. Reduction in the milk production can be noticed without the cow showing any symptoms. Under suspicion of your animals being poisoned by nitrate, your veterinary can carry a test and, if necessary, inject them some methylene blue, the antidote.

Recently, various other health problems have been linked to high concentrations of nitrate. Some studies suggest that an increase in esophageal and stomachal cancers may be related to N-nitrosamines, organic compounds formed in the mouth or digestive system by the interaction of nitrite (formed from nitrate) with compounds containing organic nitrogen (secondary amines). N-nitrosamines are potent animal carcinogens.

How to eliminate nitrites from your water

An easy solution to eliminate the nitrites in the water is to oxidize them to nitrates (as we said before, nitrates are much less toxic than nitrites). This can be done by injecting ozone in the water. Ozone is a very oxidizing chemical compound that would oxidize all the nitrites into nitrates, thus eliminating the toxicity caused by nitrites.

Click here to know more about our ozone generators.









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