Agent Name

NITRATES and NITRITES

Alternative Name

CLASS

Major Category

Nitrogen Compounds

Synonyms

CLASSES

Category

Nitrates and Nitrites

Sources/Uses

"Infants less than 4 months of age are at particular risk of nitrate toxicity from contaminated water. . . . The widespread use of nitrate fertilizers increases the risk of well-water contamination in rural areas." Leaking septic tanks and animal waste tanks are also sources of increased nitrates in drinking water. [ATSDR Case Studies: Nitrate/Nitrite Toxicity] Sodium nitrite is used as an corrosion inhibitor in metalworking fluids; [Kanerva, p. 717] Amyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite are used as illicit, aphrodisiac inhalants to enhance erection. [AHLS, p. 199]

Comments

Inorganic nitrate or nitrite compounds that can cause methemoglobinemia include silver nitrate, strontium nitrate, potassium nitrate, bismuth nitrate, bismuth subnitrate, ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrite, potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate, and sodium nitrite. (Sodium nitrate has the formula H-N-O3 Na; Sodium nitrite has the formula H-N-O2 Na.) [HSDB] Nitrates and nitrates are potential abortafacients in animals and humans. The effect is most likely due to fetal hypoxia as a result of maternal methemoglobinemia. [Frazier, p. 348] Nitrites and nitrates are vasodilators that can cause headache, hypotension, and syncope. [AHLS, p. 97] Nitrates in water or sausage (cured with sodium or potassium nitrate) may induce methemogobinemia in infants. Nitrates are readily converted into nitrites in the infant gut. [Olson, p. 300] The category "Nitrates and Nitrites" also include organic nitrate and nitrite compounds.

Reference Link

ATSDR - Index, Nitrate/Nitrite Toxicity Case Study

Adverse Effects
Reproductive Toxin

Yes

Methemoglobinemia

Methemoglobinemia, Secondary

Links to Other NLM Databases
Toxicity Information

Search TOXNET

Related Information in HazMap
Activities

Activities with risk of exposure: