My Blog Week: March 28 to April 3
A Word on the Week
Thinking, about a year ago, of New Year’s resolutions, and thinking of the environment, I was ready to stop buying bottled water. To me, a pretty big deal…I like the taste of bottled water, and I like the sluggability, so to speak. It’s easier to drink out of a bottle than a glass. I thought of compromising, saving my plastic and reusing it, filling the bottles with tap water. I tried it.
I picked up a bottle I’d left half-empty to finish off in the morning…
And the taste was kind of odd…kind of bacony was what I concluded. What makes the flavor of bacon (what also makes it the target of “not to eat” lists) is nitrates/nitrites.
Were these an element in tap water?
Well, I was naïve about it, but the answer is—very much so, and what’s bad about nitrates is bad. They bind to oxygen in the blood, in effect taking oxygen out of circulation. Also, your Brita pitcher won’t make any difference. Nitrates/nitrites don’t filter out with charcoal.
Nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, is a side effect of the nitrogen massively infused into the environment by agricultural practices. The use of nitrate fertilizers has gone exponential since the end of WWII, and gone global, as well—in areas not in the past under cultivation on a commercial scale. A South African (Maherry, Tredoux, et al., c. 2001, no link because the page is listed “not secure” [which means it isn’t encrypted, not dangerous, but…]) study found that even turning the soil for cultivation released natural nitrogen once stored in the roots of grasses, and increased nitrate levels in ground water. Where populations are underserved by any sort of pipeline system for drinking water, well-water contamination is made worse by the fact that many wells, worldwide, are not regulated or tested.
Nitrates are an oxidant that can dissolve uranium contained in rock substrata and introduce high levels of uranium to groundwater and well-water. This is a problem in India, but also for America’s High Plains aquifer and Central Valley aquifer.
Nitrates form N-nitroso compounds, called NOC, which may be carcinogens or teratogens (the name for an agent that causes birth defects). A quote from an NCBI (affiliated with the National Institutes of Health) article, sums up the physiological effects of nitrates:
[Nitrous Oxide and compounds] compromise the regulation of blood pressure and blood flow by mediating vasodilation, the maintenance of blood vessel tonus, the inhibition of platelet adhesion and aggregation, modulation of mitochondrial function and several other processes.
On the other hand, various nitrate and nitrite derived metabolites such as nitrous acid (HNO2) are powerful nitrosating agents and known to drive the formation of NOC, which are suggested to be the causal agents in many of the nitrate-associated adverse health outcomes. NOC comprise N-nitrosamines and N-nitrosamides, and may be formed when nitrosating agents encounter N-nitrosatable amino acids, which are also from dietary origin.
Then there are the storage dangers of ammonium nitrate, cause most recently of the August 2020 explosion in Beirut.
So what should be the environmentalist’s position vis a vis the plastic water bottle? Too many places (plenty of them in the U.S.) have unsafe tap water, whether from city pipes or wells. If a municipality bans plastic bottles, do they make exceptions where “bought” water is the only safe choice? I would favor having major bottlers part-coopted by the government, given incentives to collect and recycle, but also a mandate to produce purified water as a public health service.
In the meantime, nitrates get worse, and water systems are mostly (if any) not improved to remove enough nitrate pollution, that safe-in-theory water doesn’t carry the aftertaste of bacon.
On Monday, “Haunts”, a poem reissue. Tuesday, The Sword Decides!, a pair of royal hangers-on discuss the awkward court life of Andreas. On Wednesday, a new Eight, “refutation”; on Thursday, part thirty-six of Shine! by Mathilde Alanic, in which Annie dances at the festival, and has an embarrassing encounter. Friday, Hammersmith, Aimee threading out her available options. Saturday, a reissue from The Poor Belabored Beast, “Collared”.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: March 28 to April 3