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Bacteria and Nitrates:
These pollutants are found in human and
animal wastes. Septic tanks can cause
bacterial and nitrate pollution. So can
large numbers of farm animals. Both
septic systems and animal manures
must be carefully managed to prevent
pollution. Sanitary landfills and
garbage dumps are also sources.
Children and some adults are at extra
risk when exposed to water-born
bacteria. These include the elderly and
people whose immune systems are
weak due to AIDS or treatments for
cancer. Fertilizers can add to nitrate
problems. Nitrates cause a health
threat in very young infants called
“blue baby” syndrome. This condition
disrupts oxygen flow in the blood.
Nitrates and Nitrites:
Although high nitrate levels are usually due to
human activities (see below), they may
be found naturally in ground water.
They come from the breakdown of
nitrogen compounds in the soil.
Flowing ground water picks them up
from the soil. Drinking large amounts
of nitrates and nitrites is particularly
threatening to infants (for example,
when mixed in formula).