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Infantile methemoglobinemia is a condition in which infants develop a blue or gray hue to their skin as the result of insufficient amounts of oxygen getting into their bloodstreams. Other symptoms range from simple irritability and vomiting to coma and even death. Nitrites metabolize hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying component of red blood cells, into methemoglobin which is incapable of oxygen transportation. Methemoglobin is the result of nitrites bonding to the iron component of hemoglobin. Due to the consequential color of the skin, this affliction is more commonly known as Blue Baby Syndrome and mostly effects children less than six months of age. The most common way for nitrites to enter infants’ bodies is through ingestion of contaminated water used for making baby formula. In addition to direct ingestion of nitrites, nitrates also pose a danger as they are reduced to nitrites in the human digestive tract. Babies are at particular risk because they lack an enzyme necessary to convert methemoglobin back into hemoglobin; adults readily produce this enzyme. Because of these health dangers, the EPA has set maximum safe concentration standards at 10ppm for nitrates found in water consumed by humans.

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