9 Apr 2014

Rural parents warned over water

6:25 am on 9 April 2014

Health experts in Canterbury are warning rural parents of the danger nitrate-contaminated water on farms can pose to infants.

The Canterbury District Health Board is working with midwives to inform rural parents about the risks of bottle-feeding infants using farm water supplies.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Alistair Humphrey said as agriculture had intensified in Canterbury, the levels of nitrates in ground water had risen. That posed a threat to babies drinking it.

"The effect on the baby is very similar to carbon monoxide poisoning. The nitrate is converted to nitrite in the gut, then it binds very tightly to hemoglobin and the baby turns blue, hence the term Blue Baby Syndrome," Dr Humphrey said.

"That sometimes, rarely fortunately, but sometimes can kill the baby.

"So we are working very closely with the lead maternity careers - midwives - particularly with rural women so that they can understand whether or not their bore is a bore in an area where the nitrates are likely to be high and what they can do about it."

The Green Party is urging authorities to listen to these warnings before irrigation schemes intensify agriculture further in Canterbury.