Chemicals used in fertilizers appear to be more harmful to the environment, especially to water born animals, than researchers had believed to be the case.
A study by toxicologists from North Carolina State University was published by the journal PLoS One showing that water fleas take in nitrites and nitrites from fertilizer and then convert it into the highly toxic nitric oxide. Scientist had up until now believed that only plants were capable of converting nitrates into nitric oxide. “There’s only limited evidence to suggest that animals could convert nitrates and nitrites to nitric oxide, although plants can,” explained Dr. Gerald LeBlanc, professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at NC State and author of the paper. “Since animals and plants don’t have the same cellular machinery for this conversion, it appears animals use different machinery for this conversion to occur.” Their research showed that water fleas that are exposed to fertilizers suffer from multiple reproductive disorders. “Nitrite concentrations in water vary across the United States, but commonly fall within 1 to 2 milligrams per liter of water,” LeBlanc continued. “We saw negative effects to water fleas at approximately 0.3 milligrams per liter of water.” “It’s not possible to eliminate nitrates and nitrites from our lives – they do wonders in agricultural crop production,” LeBlanc said. “But we can take measures to ensure that the benefits of these chemicals outweigh their risks by keeping them out of surface waters.”