High levels are most dangerous to children age one and under. Excessive levels of nitrate may react with hemoglobin in the blood to produce "blue baby" syndrome. Nitrate is an oxidized form of nitrogen that may be produced by bacteria converting nitrites to nitrates. High levels of nitrates in water may indicate biological wastes in the final stages of stabilization, or run off from heavily fertilized fields. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and EPA set the maximum contamination level for nitrates at 10mg/L.
Nitrites are an intermediate stage in the decomposition of compounds containing nitrogen. Nitrites easily convert to nitrates in the presence of oxygen, so that nitrites are rarely found in surface water. Water containing large amounts of nitrite indicates that the water contains partially decomposed organic matter. Some home loan agencies require nitrite testing as part of the inspection process.
Excessive lead levels in the body can cause serious damage to the brain, nervous system, kidneys and red blood cells. Young children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Most lead in household water comes from the plumbing rather than the water supply. Plumbing installed before 1930 is likely to contain lead. Newer copper pipes are frequently soldered with lead; in fact, lead solder is thought to be the leading cause of lead contamination in U.S. home water supplies. New brass faucets and fittings can also leach lead, even if they are called "lead free". Any factors that increase water corrosivity increase lead leaching off plumbing into the water. If the water is not corrosive, mineral deposits gradually coat pipe interiors, insulating the water from lead solder. This explains why new homes have a higher risk of lead contamination during the first five years, before any minerals have built up on the plumbing.
To reduce your risk of lead exposure in drinking water:
County Telephone Operator 817-884-1111
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