In the US, there is a common misconception that because we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world, everyone has equal access to basic necessities such as education and health care. However, this is not the case and because of this there are many cities that suffer from high rates of infant mortality due to premature births and birth defects. The causes for the infant mortality can go back to maternal health before and during pregnancy, access to prenatal care, as well as environmental factors. So we are on a mission! Babies are dying, and we want to save them. Currently, we are looking into the issues caused by nitrate contamination in water and its impact on maternal health. We are focusing our efforts on Salinas, California because of its high nitrate levels and infant mortality rate.
The Silent Killer:
Nitrate is Colorless, Tasteless, and Odorless
Nitrate in the water supply can remain undetected while dramatically harming a community
Nitrate is the #1 contaminant threat in California’s drinking water
Farm fertilizers and animal waste are largest contributors to nitrates in groundwater
It take years to decades for nitrates to reach groundwater from soil
Nitrate levels increased by 50% in groundwater from 1987-2012
Nitrate’s impact on the body:
- Oxygen travels to the blood through a molecule called hemoglobin –> When nitrate is consumed, it reacts with hemoglobin to produce methemoglobin which does not support oxygen
- Enzymes help reverse this reaction but infants have lower amounts of enzymes than adults
- Reaching methemoglobin levels higher than 2% can be fatal for infants.
- Reaching methemoglobin levels of 20% is also known as anoxia or blue baby syndrome because their lips and area around their eyes turn blue. In some instances, their vanes turn blue due to the lack of oxygen.
- Brain and tissue damage, a weaken defense system, and death can occur due to blue baby syndrome. For more information click here.
Testing for Nitrate Contamination:
- There are field kits available for farmers to use to test samples of water that they are using
- These kits are not as accurate as sending water to a lab and having them test the water
- There is a legal limit of 10 mg/L of nitrate in drinking water
- If the levels are too high, need to get treatment equipment
- Distillation, reverse osmosis or ion exchange
- All three of those options are relatively expensive: base costs + operating costs
- NITRATE TESTS FOR THE HOME ARE AVAILABLE
- This is a cheaper option costing only $10
- This was also meant for testing water in fish tanks, but will serve the same purpose for safe drinking water
Clean Water and Infant Mortality Rates on a Global Scale:
This graph highlights how as the water source, in terms of water access and quality, improves percentage-wise, the number of newborn mortality rates per 1000 also decreases as a general trend. What we hope this emphasizes is how important it is to improve the water quality in different areas of the world, especially Salinas where we are looking in order to help the infant mortality rate.
With a nitrate level of 21mg/L, Salinas is the community we have chosen to focus on.
Illegal Immigrant Percent of Population:
- Monterey County: 13.5%
- SLO County: 3.5%
- California: 7.8%
- US: 3.7%
Infant Mortality Rate
- Salinas: 4.6/1000
- SLO County: 6.2/1000
- Why is SLO County’s infant mortality rate so high?
- We have not been able to find a definitive answer to this question as it seems as though most of the news has not been made public in terms of the reason
- We have concluded through research that the issue is definitely not nitrate in water but there have been some outbreaks of bacteria in water that may be causing this rate to be so high.
- Why is SLO County’s infant mortality rate so high?
- California: 4.8/1000
- US: 4.04/1000
- Target audience
- Migrant workers
- Currently living and working in the Salinas area
- Of childbearing age
- Working With
- Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas (CSVS)
- 8 clinics for low-income residents and a mobile clinic
- Service prices are based on personal income
What Can We Do?
Short term (this quarter)
- Create a comprehensive educational program that can be leveraged easily by clinics, as well as understood by patients of the program.
- Generate awareness for importance of nutrition and clean water consumption.
Long term (project completion)
- Reduce nitrate consumption among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
- Reduce rates of infant mortality, birth defects and stillbirths.
- Reduce maternal illness and mortality
- Lack of communication with clinics and the community
- Migrant population could cause lack of long-term adoption (eg. moving out of the area and not continuing to utilize the program)
- Infant mortality is not actually linked to nutrition or nitrate levels and rates do not reduce
Expanding our program to aid Nepal
- Potential similar problems in Nepal
- Delays in seeking prenatal care
- lack of access trained health care
- excessive physical labor and poor nutrition
- Communications with Garrett, a peace corp. volunteer in Nepal
- USAID: Project Suaahara
- Other potential projects to improve maternal health
- Alternative cooking fuels/techniques
- Rain/wastewater catchment systems to improve homestead vegetable production
- Low cost, maintainable, low-cost water filters to address diarrhea
For our video we made a PSA to raise awareness for this issue and push for nitrate testing and awareness
Move all my comments in red to the very bottom of your website so I can refer to what I wrote, but the reader won’t be inconvenienced by my comments. Let me know if you’d like me to review the website again before the final presentation. Are you considering collaborating with the clean water group? I’d like to see more information about the population of people you are interested in. Do you know anyone living tin Salinas? What are their lives like? What are their challenges? How much do they make? What are their homes like? Explain your plan more. In its present state this website would earn a “B” or “B+”. It is well organized, but I think there is more information that could be researched.
Have you spoken with anyone there? Do you have a contact? What do they say? How do the presidential candidates stack up on this.
more about the Nepal people?
Please provide links to websites for references.