Nitrate is naturally found in many types of food. However, high levels of nitrate in drinking water can make people sick. Exposure to excessive concentrations of nitrate can cause blue baby syndrome as a result of asphyxiation since the blood loses the ability to transport oxygen. This is an extremely dangerous condition and requires prompt medical attention. Excessive exposure to nitrate is also dangerous to pregnant women, individuals without the ability to metabolize and excrete nitrate and those lacking the met-hemoglobin reductase enzyme.
Nitrate in your well water can come from animal waste, private septic systems, waste-water, flooded sewers, polluted storm water runoff, fertilizers, agricultural runoff, and decaying plants. The presence of nitrate in well water also depends on the geology of the land around your well. A nitrate test is recommended for all wells. The Illinois standard for safe drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter or less of nitrate. While not mandatory, this standard is used as a guide for private water wells. If the nitrate level in your water is higher than the Illinois standard, you should look for other sources of water or ways to treat your water. Testing should be done yearly, as nitrate levels can fluctuate over time.