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Govt Must Cut Synthetic Nitrogen Fertiliser After Adverse Birth Outcomes Linked To Nitrate Contamination – Greenpeace

Greenpeace says recent research into the link between
adverse birth outcomes and nitrate contamination of drinking
water should compel the government to take immediate action
to cut sources of nitrate pollution, including synthetic
nitrogen fertiliser.

Greenpeace senior campaigner
Steve Abel says the new research adds to the body of
evidence that shows nitrate contamination of drinking water
from intensive dairying is a seeping health threat,
affecting babies in utero and associated with cancer in

“We already know that synthetic nitrogen
fertiliser is killing our rivers and intensifying climate
damage. It’s increasingly clear that the favourite chemical
of intensive dairying is making people sick,” says

University of Otago researchers have published
a blog post on the UO Public Health Expert Blog
reviewing recent research into adverse birth outcomes caused
by nitrate contamination, and raising the alarm about high
nitrate concentrations in drinking water in parts of New

The blog quotes authors of a 2021 US study
which found nitrate-nitrogen levels in drinking water above
5 mg/L increased the odds of a preterm birth (20-31 weeks)
by 47%, while exposure above 10 mg/L increased the odds of a
preterm birth 2.5 times.

New Zealand’s current
health limit for nitrate-nitrogen is 11.3mg/L, based on the
limit necessary to avoid blue baby syndrome. This limit is
more than double the amount now strongly linked to preterm
births, and thirteen times that associated with bowel cancer
in an international study (0.87mg/L).

Abel says this
research is disturbing news for expectant parents.

pregnant person should have to fear that water from their
tap might be harming their baby,” says Abel.

research adds to the growing public concern about drinking
water safety, which has seen hundreds of people attending
water testing events across Canterbury. Greenpeace is
running free drop-in water testing for households on bore
water in Canterbury this weekend, in association with the
Federation of Freshwater Anglers.

The University of
Otago researchers point to intensive agriculture as the
culprit, saying that “nitrate is one of the most common
drinking water contaminants in NZ, largely driven by
agricultural activity (nitrogen fertiliser application and
livestock urine). Nitrate leached into water from dairy
farming has increased substantially since 1990.”

of the researchers, Dr Michael Baker, previously
that “our water is getting a lot more
contaminated because of our absolute love-affair with
nitrate fertilisers.”

The culprit is “undeniable,”
says Abel.

“It’s obvious. The areas of New Zealand
with high levels of nitrate contamination in water are the
areas with intensive dairying – like Canterbury, Southland
and Waikato. We know what is causing this spike in nitrate
contamination in our drinking water: too much synthetic
nitrogen fertiliser, too many cows, and too much cow urine,”
says Abel.

The University of Otago researchers blog
post says the new studies ‘reinforce the need for a
precautionary approach to setting lower nitrate limits in
drinking water for human and ecological

Greenpeace is calling on the Government to
lower the limit on nitrate allowed in drinking water from
11.3mg/L to 0.87mg/L in line with international research,
and act on it by phasing out the use of synthetic nitrogen

“Synthetic fertiliser is a key driver of
intensive dairying, and the nitrate pollution flowing from
land crammed with too many cows is turning our drinking
water toxic,” says Abel.

“Both central and local
government have failed in their regulatory obligation to
protect the health of our people and environment. They need
to act now by cutting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser,
lowering stocking rates and shifting to regenerative organic
farming so we can all live in a country where rivers run
clear and our tap water is safe to drink.”

water testing days:

10am – 2pm Saturday 29th May,
Dunsandel Community Centre

9am – 1pm Sunday 30th May,
Woodend Community

© Scoop Media


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