My topic is on Nitrate and Nitrite in water and these are the questions- What is the difference between Nitrate and Nitrite? How does Nitrate and Nitrite protect or harm drinking water? How do...

My topic is on Nitrate and Nitrite in water and these are the questions-

  1. What is the difference between Nitrate and Nitrite?
  2. How does Nitrate and Nitrite protect or harm drinking water?
  3. How do we test for these two things? 
  4. Pros and cons of each topic as it relates to our drinking water?

Thank you, I have to write a four page report. :)

Asked on by Angie A.

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caledon | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

1. Nitrate and nitrite are chemical compounds; the suffixes "-ate" and "-ite" tell you about what's in them. Nitrite has the formula NO2, meaning two oxygen atoms bound to a nitrogen, and nitrate has the formula NO3. The compounds have the same ionic charge, but different shapes, bond strengths and common usages (for example nitrate is often found in explosives and fertilizer). Both are typically found in the nitrogen cycle, which is like the carbon cycle but is more plant-oriented.

2. Both compounds harm drinking water because they are toxic; in the bloodstream, they react with hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying molecule) and alter the iron atoms so that they are unable to bond with oxygen. This is basically the same thing as suffocating, but on a molecular level. You're still breathing, but the air isn't getting where it needs to go. On the other hand, some nutritionists argue that these chemicals are excreted or converted rapidly in the body, and you'd have to ingest a huge amount of them in order for the toxic effects to actually manifest themselves.

3. Both compounds can be tested in water by using specially calibrated electrical equipment. Since both compounds are -1 ions, this property will affect the electrical conductivity of the water. By testing the water's conductivity, the presence of the ions can be determined. I've linked procedures for several other tests here.

4. Cons: Contaminated water is dangerous, testing it incurs a cost, and purifying it may add ongoing costs or prove unfeasible, rendering the water useless for drinking.Pros: Having the water tested will prevent it from harming unsuspecting drinkers. The testing may also reveal other contaminants, or give indications about the general health of the water supply. For example, if testing for nitrates reveals another contaminant leaking from pipes or local runoff, the test indirectly served a greater purpose.

Sources:

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