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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1996 Feb;23(1 Pt 1):35-43.

Health implications of nitrate and nitrite in drinking water: an update on methemoglobinemia occurrence and reproductive and developmental toxicity.

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Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency, Berkeley 94704, USA.


In 1987, an evaluation of the nitrate drinking water standard was performed with a primary focus on the effects of nitrate on methemoglobinemia and reproductive/developmental effects (Fan et al. (1987). Regul. Toxicol. Pharmacol. 7, 135-148). The present review presents an updated overview and evaluation of the available information on the same health effects of nitrate and nitrite with an emphasis on data not included in the previous review, which should be used as a compendium to this report. Recent epidemiologic data have suggested an association between developmental effects in offspring and the maternal ingestion of nitrate from drinking water, but a definite conclusion on the cause and effect relationship cannot be drawn. Animal experimental data have shown reproductive toxicity associated with high exposure levels to nitrate or nitrite, which are not likely to be encountered in drinking water. No teratogenic effects were observed in rats, mice, rabbits, and hamsters tested. Several cases of methemoglobinemia have been reported in infants in the United States using water containing nitrate at levels higher than the current maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 45 ppm (mg/liter) nitrate (NO3) or 10 ppm nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate-N), but none at or lower than the MCL. The uncertainties in the data base are discussed, noting that no uncertainty factor was applied in deriving the MCL in order to account for the uncertainties that exist in the data base.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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