The rise of factory farming has led to growing concerns across the United States about the harm to individual and public health caused by industrial food operations. These damages are many and include personal injury, nuisance and devaluation of property as well as damage to the environment.
One of the byproducts of industrial food operations is nitrate contamination of surface water and groundwater. Nitrate contamination results from overapplication of fertilizer to crops. It can also result from the vast quantities of manure generated by concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, where large numbers of poultry, swine, cattle or other animals are housed and raised in confined areas.
Nitrate contamination often occurs in rural areas that rely heavily on well water. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that thousands of community water wells and private wells exceed the EPA’s maximum nitrate contaminant level (MCL) of 10 mg/L or 10 ppm.
Nitrates have been classified by the EPA as a water contagion that requires monitoring. Infants below the age of six months who drink water containing nitrate in excess of this MCL may become seriously ill, or even die, as a result.
Symptoms include shortness of breath and “blue baby syndrome” or methemoglobinemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder.
Other illnesses and conditions that have been linked to high levels of nitrates in drinking water include:
Nitrates are not the only toxins that can contaminate environments near industrial food operations: bacteria, viruses, antibiotics and pesticides are also byproducts of factory farming that can spread into the drinking water supplies of neighboring communities and cause a range of health problems among the people who drink the contaminated water.
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Whether or not your water becomes contaminated with nitrates or other pollutants is typically out of your control. But there are ways to reclaim the safety of your drinking water, even if you have not yet become physically ill from this contamination.
Potential remedies in a nitrate contamination lawsuit include:
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