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How do nitrates affect human health?  

Nitrate concentrations are monitored in municipal water supplies and foods to prevent exposing people to the potential harmful effects of high levels of nitrates.  Nitrates are highly soluble, meaning that they easily dissolve in water. For many people in rural areas, the primary source of drinking water is well water, which may be contaminated with nitrates.  Nitrates are colorless and odorless, so their presence cannot be determined without the use of special testing equipment. 

Nitrates can interfere with the ability of our red blood cells to carry oxygen.  Infants are more at risk of nitrate poisoning than older children or adults. Babies can turn "blue" when there is not enough oxygen being transported by their blood.  This "blue baby syndrome" (technically known as methemoglobinemia) is a serious condition that can cause brain damage or death.

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