Nitrates and Nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites used for curing meat or accumulated in vegetable roots demonstrate the potential to cause poisoning. Poisoning may develop after ingestion of vegetables grown in overfertilized and overnitrated soil. Another source is water from wells improperly protected against dropped leaves. An excess of nitrogen dioxide in the human body results in formation of methaemoglobin, especially fetal (HbF), and nitrosamines (known for their carcinogenic effects). Methaemoglobin does not act as an oxygen carrier and hinders oxygen release in tissues. Symptoms resemble that of increasing anemia: fatigue, headaches and dizziness, tachycardia, weakness, progressing dyspnoea, cyanosis (a gray-brownish skin discoloration), coma, and death. Besides nitrites and nitrates in food, aniline preparations, analgesic drugs, malaricidals, and nitrobenzene may promote methaemoglobinaemia.

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