Characterization of Nitrate Contamination in an Arid Region of China


There are two pathways for nitrate to enter into human body: drinking water and food. Therefore, nitrate contamination of drinking water and agricultural crops is of particular interest to governments and the general public owing to the possible implications for health. This work investigated nitrate contents in various crops and in different parts of each crop and in drinking water as well in the Zhangye Basin, Northwest China. It provided evidence of severe nitrate contamination of drinking water, especially, in vegetable-growing villages. As to the nitrate contamination of crops, the present study revealed that all sampled crops adjust their nitrate distributions in a way that the edible parts contain much less nitrate than non-edible parts except lettuce. The nitrate content in the edible root of lettuce reached up to 5900 mg/kg exceeding the limit set by the European Commission.

Share and Cite:

G. Huang, "Characterization of Nitrate Contamination in an Arid Region of China," Journal of Environmental Protection, Vol. 4 No. 7A, 2013, pp. 46-52. doi: 10.4236/jep.2013.47A006.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] . Addiscott, “Nitrate, Agriculture and the Environment,” CABI, Wallingford, 2005.
[2] L. Razowska-Jaworek and A. Sadurski, “Nitrate in Groundwaters,” IAH Hydrogeology Selected Papers 5, 2004, pp. 247-258.
[3] H. Vroomen, “Fertilizer Use and Price Statistics,” Resource and Technology Division, ERS, USDA, Statistics Bulletin, 1989, pp. 780.
[4] P. Heffer, “Assessment of Fertilizer Use by Crop at the Global Level: 2006/07-2007/08,” International Fertilizer Industry Association, Paris, 2009.
[5] D. Majumdar, “The Blue Baby Syndrome: Nitrate Poisoning in Humans,” Resonance, Vol. 8, No. 10, 2003, pp. 2030. doi:10.1007/BF02840703
[6] M. C. Dutt, H. Y. Lim and R. K. H. Chew, “Nitrate Consumption and the Incidence of Gastric Cancer in Singapore,” Food and Chemical Toxicology, Vol. 25, No. 7, 1987, pp. 515-520. doi:10.1016/0278-6915(87)90202-X
[7] E. Moore and E. Matalon, “The Human Costs of Nitrate-Contaminated Drinking Water in the San Joaquin Valley,” Report of Pacific Institute, 2011.
[8] R. C. Parslow, G. R. Law, P. A. McKinney, A. Staines, R. Williams and H. J. Bodansky, “Incidence of Childhood Diabetes Mellitus in Yorkshire, Northern England, Is Associated with Nitrate in Drinking Water: An Ecological Study,” Diabetologia, Vol. 40, No. 5, 1997, pp. 550-556. doi:10.1007/s001250050714
[9] J. Dich, R. Jarvinen, P. Knekt and P. L. Penttila, “Dietary Intakes of Nitrate, Nitrite and NDMA in the Finnish Mobile Clinic Health Examination Survey,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 13, No. 5, 1996, pp. 541-552. doi:10.1080/02652039609374439
[10] M. Eichholzer and F. Gutzwiller, “Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and N-Nitroso Compounds and Cancer Risk: A Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence,” Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 56, No. 4, 1998, pp. 95-105. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1998.tb01721.x
[11] S. De Martin and P. Restani, “Determination of Nitrates by a Novel ion Chromatographic Method: Occurrence in Leafy Vegetables (Organic and Conventional) and Exposure Assessment for Italian Consumers,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 20, No. 9, 2003, pp. 787-792. doi:10.1080/0265203031000152415
[12] J. Susin, V. Kmecl and A. Gregorcic, “A Survey of Nitrate and Nitrite Content of Fruit and Vegetables Grown in Slovenia during 1996-2002,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2006, pp. 385-390. doi:10.1080/02652030600573715
[13] A. Petersen and S. Stoltze, “Nitrate and Nitrite in Vegetables on the Danish Market: Content and Intake,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 16, No. 7, 1999, pp. 291-299. doi:10.1080/026520399283957
[14] W. Zhong, C. Hu and M. Wang, “Nitrate and Nitrite in Vegetables from North China: Content and Intake,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 19, No. 12, 2002, pp. 1125-1129. doi:10.1080/0265203021000014806
[15] A. Ayaz, A. Topeu and M. Yurttagul, “Survey of Nitrate and Nitrite Levels of Fresh Vegetables in Turkey,” Journal of Food Technology, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2007, pp. 177-179.
[16] T. Tamme, M. M. Reinik, M. Roasto, K. Juhkam, T. Tennc and A. Kiis, “Nitrates and Nitrites in Vegetables and Vegetable-Based Products and Their Intakes by the Estonian Population,” Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2006, pp. 355-361. doi:10.1080/02652030500482363
[17] P. Santamaria, A. Elia and F. Serio, “Ways of Reducing Rocket Salad Nitrate Content,” Acta Horticulture, Vol. 548, 2001, pp. 529-537.
[18] M. Andrews, “The Partitioning of Nitrate Assimilation between Root and shoot of Higher Plants,” Plant, Cell & Environment, Vol. 9, No. 7, 2006, pp. 511-519.
[19] JECFA, “Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants,” WHO Technical Report Series 859, 1995, pp. 32-35.
[20] SCF Scientific Committee for Food, “Opinion on Nitrates and Nitrites,” Reports of the Scientific Committee for Food 38th Series, 1995, pp. 1-33.
[21] Y. Z. Su, Z. H. Zhang and R. Yang, “Amount of Irrigation and Nitrogen Application for Maize Grown on Sandy Farmland in the Marginal Oasis in the Middle of Heihe River Basin,” Acta Agronomica Sinica, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2007, pp. 2007-2015. (in Chinese)
[22] R. Yang and W. Liu, “Nitrate Contamination of Groundwater in an Agroecosystem in Zhangye Oasis, Northwest China,” Environmental Earth Sciences, Vol. 61, No. 1, 2010, pp. 123-129. doi:10.1007/s12665-009-0327-7
[23] J. Fang and Y. J. Ding, “Assessment of Groundwater Contamination by Using Geographical Information System in the Zhangye Basin, Northwest China,” Environmental Earth Sciences, Vol. 60, No. 4, 2010, pp. 809-816. doi:10.1007/s12665-009-0218-y
[24] C. Y. Zhang, Z. Wang and X. X. Cheng, “Studies of Nitrogen Isotopes in Sources of Nitrate Pollution in Groundwater beneath the City of Zhangye,” Journal of Arid Land Resources & Environment, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2004, pp. 79-85. (in Chinese)
[25] D. Qin, Y. Qian, L. Han, Z. Wang, C. Li and Z. Zhao, “Assessing Impact of Irrigation Water on Groundwater Recharge and Quality in Arid Environment Using CFCs, Tritium and Stable Isotopes, in the Zhangye Basin, Northwest China,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 405, No. 1-2, 2011, pp. 194-208. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.05.023
[26] B. E. Gilbert, “The Adaptation of Certain Colorimetric Methods to the Estimation of Nitrates, Phosphates and Potassium in Plant Solutions,” Plant Physiology, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1926, pp. 191-199. doi:10.1104/pp.1.2.191
[27] European Commission, “Commission Regulation (EC) No.1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 Setting Maximum Levels for Certain Contaminants in Food Stuffs,” 2006.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.