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Farming Communities Facing Crisis over Nitrate Pollution, Study Says

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Factory Farming & Food Safety page.
Nitrate contamination in groundwater from fertilizer and animal manure is severe and getting worse for hundreds of thousands of residents in California's Central Valley farming communities, according to a study released Tuesday by researchers at the University of California, Davis.

Nearly 10 percent of the 2.6 million people living in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley might be drinking nitrate-contaminated water, researchers found. And if nothing is done to stem the problem, the report warns, nearly 80 percent of residents could be at risk of health and financial problems by 2050.

High nitrate levels in drinking water have been linked to thyroid cancer, skin rashes, hair loss, birth defects and "blue baby syndrome," a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants.

The report is the most comprehensive assessment so far of nitrate contamination in California's agricultural areas.

The problem is much, much, much worse than we thought," said Angela Schroeter, agricultural regulatory program manager for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, a state water agency.

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