Water in the Niger Delta Has Dangerous Levels of Nitrites and Nitrates

In a recent study, alarming levels of Nitrate and Nitrite has been found in most of the water supplies available to those living in Warri, Nigeria, with waste disposal and sanitary conditions thought to be the leading cause.

Nitrate is a salt created from nitric acid, which can be toxic to both humans and animals. Children are most at risk to building up toxic levels, which can cause Methemoglobinemia(blue baby syndrome.) Nitrites, which is often used in curing meats, is also a salt and is very toxic in humans.

One of the reasons that water in Nigeria was selected for this study is that generally those that live in the Niger Delta, which is located where the Niger River Meats the ocean, consistently have poorer health than those living in other areas.

Using samples of water from surface water, shallow wells that are less than 45 Meters Deep, and boreholes that were at least 150 meters deep, researchers were able to identify high levels of both nitrate and nitrite in most areas.

Both industrialized and market areas were tested, with levels of nitrate and nitrite being highest in industrial settings.

Of all industrial areas, the levels were highest in the Ubeji River, while being the lowest in the Ubeji boreholes. Interestingly this relationship was not the same, as the Otokutu River had lower levels of nitrite and nitrate in the river itself, while levels in boreholes and wells in the area were much higher.

In Market Areas, the highest levels of Nitrate and Nitrite were found in the Udu River, with nitrate levels being twice as high as in the Ubeji River.

These findings are quite alarming as most of the population of Nigeria get their water from surface water, with the water seldom being treated before it is used by the general population. Most must take matters into their own hands if they want cleaner water.

With the effects of nitrate and nitrite toxicity being so serious, especially among children, there is a high level of concern for those living in this area. Further, this study indicates that the commonly held belief that oil production is the leading cause of illness among those in the Niger Delta might not be as big of a factor as poor water quality.

Source: Journal of Environmental Health; Jan2010, Vol. 72 Issue 6, p28-31

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