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Nitrates are produced by a number of species of nitrifying bacteria, and the nitrate compounds for gunpowder (see this topic for more) were historically produced, in the absence of mineral nitrate sources, by means of various fermentation processes using urine and dung.

Nitrates are mainly produced for use as fertilizers in agriculture because of their high solubility and biodegradability. The main nitrate fertilizers are ammonium, sodium, potassium, and calcium salts. Several million kilograms are produced annually for this purpose.
Although nitrites are the nitrogen compound chiefly used in meat curing, nitrates are used in certain specialty curing processes where a long release of nitrite from parent nitrate stores is needed. The use of nitrates in food preservation is controversial. This is due to the potential for the formation of nitrosamines when nitrates are present in high concentrations and the product is cooked at high temperatures. The effect is seen for red or processed meat, but not for white meat or fish. The production of carcinogenic nitrosamines may be inhibited by the use of the antioxidants vitamin C and the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E during curing.
The historical standard method of testing for nitrate is the Cadmium Reduction Method, which is reliable and accurate although it is dependent on a toxic metal cadmium and thus not suitable for all applications. An alternative method for nitrate and nitrite analysis is enzymatic reduction using nitrate reductase, which has recently been proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency as an alternate test procedure for determining nitrate. An open source photometer has been developed for this method to accurately detect nitrate in water, soils, forage, etc.
Not only are infants under 6 months a concern for nitrate exposure, but pregnant women with altered physiological states and compromised immune systems can be at risk. Pregnant women show a decrease in methemoglobin levels with increasing gestation. Exposure to nitrate in groundwater during pregnancy at concentrations above the MCL was associated with increased risk for anencephaly. A study done in Texas and Iowa found that mothers of babies with spina bifida were twice as likely to ingest 5 mg or more of nitrate daily from drinking water as mothers of babies without major birth defects. Mothers of babies with limb deficiencies, cleft palate, and cleft lip were, respectively, 1.8, 1.9 and 1.8 times more likely to ingest 5.42 mg or more of nitrate daily than mothers of babies without major birth defects.
Another human health effects from the ingestion of nitrate is in the form of processed meat. This form of ingestion may increase the risk pancreatic cancer. Processed meat can be cured with nitrate-based salt to decrease bacterial growth and improve flavor. When ingested, nitrate can become N-nitroso compounds (NOC), a probable human carcinogen. In a study performed by the US Government, there was a positive correlation between nitrate intake of more than 3g/day and pancreatic cancer in men. However, there are few data points which results in only a borderline significance.
In most cases of excess nitrate concentrations in aquatic systems, the primary source is surface runoff from agricultural or landscaped areas that have received excess nitrate fertilizer. This will contribute to eutrophication and can lead to algae blooms which may result in anoxia and the formation of dead zones, these blooms may cause other changes to ecosystem function, favouring some groups of organisms over others. As a consequence, as nitrate forms a component of total dissolved solids, they are widely used as an indicator of water quality.







Member of IWOCE RC PBC 2019:


Roberto Di Cosmo

Definitions of different ecosystems

Research Proposal

Software Component Definition

History alternative energy

Enabling  technologies

Renewable energy vs non-renewable energy

Relatively new concepts for alternative energy

Research alternative energy

Disadvantages alternative energy