Nitrates and nitrites are natural soil components and are part of the nitrogen cycle. They appear further to the mineralisation of the nitrous organic substances coming from plants and animals. Nitrates are partially absorbed by the plant roots and are the raw materials for the synthesis of proteins and other nitrogen compounds. The surplus contaminates the phreatic groundwater, and can be found in rivers, lakes or underground water.
Once ingested, the nitrates are turned into nitrites – much more toxic than the nitrates, after the contact with the stomach bacterial micro flora. The ingestion of a larger quantity than the one allowed can have the following consequences: high blood pressure, dysfunctions of the circulatory system and thyroid glands, cephalalgia, urticarias, intoxication, severe cyanosis, and in time even cancer.
As children food is concerned, the water is at least as important as the infant formula you choose. This is so because it may contain besides sodium, calcium, magnesium and other salts, a component not mentioned on the label: the nitrates.
The new-borns are the most vulnerable as to the nitrate contamination, because their micro bacterial flora is not developed yet to fight them. Thus, the nitrates turn into nitrites – which are much more toxic, and the consequences may range from gastric problems, infectious diarrhoea, urticarias and rashes – to methemoglobinemia.
Methemoglobinemia is the most dangerous disorder that the nitrate contamination can cause in infants – also known as “blue baby” syndrome. It firstly manifests by breathing problems caused by the inadequate oxygen flow through blood, leading quickly to asphyxiation, and subsequently to the death of the baby. This is why it is so important to prepare the baby food using water having the lowest possible nitrate content.
“The nitrates get inside the body, turn into nitrites and block the haemoglobin’s capacity to fix oxygen, and consequently the body tissues receive an insufficient amount of oxygen – especially those in the central nervous system, sometimes even endangering children’s lives or affecting them to such an extent that they need to be taken to intensive care units and be resuscitated – obviously, in order to neutralise the nitrites in the blood”, says Prof. Dr. Marin Burlea, President of the Romanian Paediatric Society.
Nitrates do not disappear after boiling, on the contrary! Do not boil still water!
The nitrates, a factor involved in all the above disorders, are most often ingested by infants and children through the drinking water having too much nitrate. It is necessary to mention that boiling water for preparing the infant formula is not a solution, even more it increases the concentration of nitrates and implicitly the toxicity.
According to doctors, nitrates and nitrites are an important danger not only for infants but also for children up to the age of 10 and even for adults. The risk is high and could cause not only intoxication but even more rapid phenomena, such as urticarias caused by nitrates and nitrites. More seriously, they can interfere in the thyroid activity, which coordinates all metabolism (protein, carbohydrate or lipids).
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