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Nitrate pollution detected in Benguet, Bulacan - group

Filipinos in key agricultural areas are potentially drinking from water sources hit by nitrate pollution, environmental group Greenpeace warned Thursday night. Greenpeace investigated crops and farming practices in Benguet and Bulacan provinces, surveying and testing nitrate levels in water from wells and streams around farms. Farmers and townsfolk were also interviewed for the study. "Five out of the 18 artesian wells in Benguet and Bulacan contained nitrates levels well above the WHO (World Health Organization) drinking water safety limit. The highest levels were found in groundwater in Buguias, Benguet at 50 percent above the WHO safety limit," it said on a statement posted on its website. The group linked nitrate pollution to the use of nitrogen fertilizer in farms. Nitrate pollution was highest found to be highest in the most intensive crops. "The study shows that nitrate pollution in important farming areas are alarmingly well above World Health Organization (WHO) safety limits. The study shows that drinking water from 30 percent of all groundwater wells sampled in [the Philippines and Thailand] showed nitrates levels above the WHO safety limit of 50 mg l-1 of nitrate (NO3-)," it said. The environmental group also said that in asparagus farms in Kanchanaburi in Thailand, nitrate levels registered at three times the WHO safety limit (>150 mg l-1). "Greenpeace has been sending out warning signals that the quality of freshwater sources in both the Philippines and Thailand is declining, and this study is yet another shocking example of how water protection measures are inadequate," Greenpeace campaigner Daniel Ocampo said. He added that, "The nitrates pollution that we discovered in farming areas is particularly worrisome. Communities think that the water they drink everyday is clean because physically, it doesn't smell bad or look bad. But it is actually laced with nitrates from fertilizers which people don't normally associate with pollution." Greenpeace said drinking water with high levels of nitrate can cause serious health problems, especially in children. The greatest risk of nitrate poisoning is "blue baby syndrome" or methemoglobinemia, which affects babies under four months of age. A patient hit by this suffers cyanosis, headache, stupor, fatigue, tachycardia, coma, convulsions, asphyxia and ultimately, death. Drinking water contaminated with nitrates also has a potential role in developing cancers of the digestive tract, and has also been associated with other types of cancer such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, bladder and ovarian cancers. - GMANews.TV