Nitrite Information

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Nitrite

Other Names

Nitrite Ion; Nitrite Anion

Chemical Formula

NO2-

CAS Number

14797 – 65 – 0

Industry Uses

Fertilizers; Corrosion Inhibitors; Preservatives

Health Risks

Methemoglobinemia; Blue-Baby Syndrome; Death

What is Nitrite?

Nitrite, an intermediate in the nitrogen cycle, is formed during the decomposition of organic matter but readily oxidizes to form nitrate. These processes occur in wastewater, treatment plants, water distribution systems, and natural waters. Nitrite contamination can occur from runoff from fertilizers, leaking from septic tanks, sewage, and erosion of natural deposits. Nitrites are useful as corrosion inhibitors, preservatives, pigments, and in the manufacture of many organic preservatives.

Nitrite Exposure and Health Risks

Contact with nitrite can cause irritation and burns to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Nitrite in drinking water can be very dangerous for infants below the age of six months. Symptoms of nitrite poisoning include shortness of breath and blue-baby syndrome. If left untreated, the baby could die. Exposure to high levels of nitrite can cause methemoglobinemia, which decreases hemoglobin's ability to transport oxygen. This leads to decreased blood pressure, increased heart rate, headaches, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and even death. The presence of nitrite in the stomach has been linked to the production of some cancer-causing compounds.

Regulations

The table below summarizes the most-recent standards.

Limit/Level

Type

Organization

 1 mg/L

 National Primary Drinking Water – Max Contaminant Level

 EPA

Sources: EPA, ATSDR

Measuring Nitrite

Dissolved Nitrite concentration in water can be measured in units of parts per million (ppm). We carry instrumental kits from CHEMetrics that determine nitrite levels in water. We carry kits that measure nitrite levels ranging from 0-2.5 ppm to 500-5,000 ppm. All of our nitrite products can be viewed HERE.

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