Water Quality Association Offers Nitrate Resources

June 12, 2019
In-home products certified for nitrate removal are listed on wqa.org

Consumers concerned over a new report linking nitrate levels in the nation’s drinking water with cancer can have their water tested by a certified laboratory and use products independently certified to remove or reduce levels of nitrates as a final barrier solution, according to the Water Quality Association.

A new peer-reviewed study by the Environmental Working Group, published June 11 in the journal Environmental Research, asserts that nitrate pollution of U.S. drinking water could cause as many as 12,594 cases of cancer a year, at an estimated annual treatment cost of $1.5 billion. 

Nitrate contamination can come from various sources, including fertilizers, manure, septic systems and natural decomposition of organic matter, so it is most often found in rural areas.  People served by private wells are at an increased risk, because while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Water Drinking Act regulates public drinking water systems, it does not regulate private wells, so it is up to the well’s owner to make sure its water is potable. 

Elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water sources are known to cause adverse health effects in humans. Infants exposed to nitrate are susceptible to methemoglobinemia, or “Blue Baby Syndrome,” which interferes with the ability of the infant’s blood to carry oxygen. This condition, in some cases, can be fatal. Pregnant women, individuals with reduced stomach acidity, and people with certain blood disorders may also be susceptible to nitrate-induced methemoglobinemia.

The federal drinking water standard for nitrate is 10 ppm, set in 1962, but EWG contends that standard is outdated.

WQA recommends using a certified water-testing lab to check your drinking water; the EPA provides a list here. To find a certified water quality professional who can help you, check out wqa.org/find-providers.

Three technologies -- ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis -- are considered to be practical and economically feasible for nitrate removal in the home. Search WQA’s database of Gold Seal-certified products for products certified to NSF/ANSI 58, 53, and WQA S-300 for nitrate/nitrite reduction. 

For more information, WQA offers a technical fact sheet on nitrate/nitrites online or a more consumer-friendly version here

WQA is a not-for-profit trade association representing the residential, commercial, and industrial water treatment industry. WQA’s education and professional certification programs have been providing industry-standardized training and credentialing since 1977.  The WQA Gold Seal certification program has been certifying products that contribute to the safe consumption of water since 1959. The WQA Gold Seal program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).   

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