Blue Baby Syndrome - An illness that begins when large amounts of nitrates in water are ingested by an infant and converted to nitrite by the digestive system. The nitrite then reacts with oxyhemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying blood protein) to form metheglobin, which cannot carry oxygen. If a large enough amount of metheglobin is formed in the blood, body tissues may be deprived of oxygen, causing the infant to develop a blue coloration of their mucous membranes and possibly digestive and respiratory problems. This condition is also known as methemoglobinemia.
The majority of cases have occurred when nitrate levels have been over 100 mg/litre. However, in many cases bacterial contamination of the water causing gut infections was present or suspected. There have been no cases in the UK since 1972.
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