Risk from Overexposure to Nitrates and Nitrites

Who is at most Risk of Adverse Health Effects from Overexposure to Nitrates and Nitrites?

Nitrate contaminated water
Nitrate contaminated water

Infants less than 4 months of age are most at risk of adverse health effects from over exposure to nitrates and nitrites through ingestion of formula diluted with nitrate contaminated water.

Although there is no nutritional indication to add complementary foods to the diet of a healthy term infant before 4 to 6 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that home-prepared infant foods from vegetables (i.e. spinach, beets, green beans, squash, carrots) should be avoided until infants are 3 months or older.

Gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea can exacerbate nitrite formation in infants and has been reported to be a major contributor to methemoglobinemia risk in infants independent of nitrate / nitrite ingestion.

In addition, the pregnant woman and her fetus might be more sensitive to toxicity from nitrites or nitrates at or near the 30th week of pregnancy.

Individuals with glucose-6-phsphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency may have greater susceptibility to the oxidizing effects of methemoglobinemia inducers.

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