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© 1998, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide discusses the blood disorder methemoglobinemia, its effect on infants and prevention methods. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder caused when nitrite interacts with the hemoglobin in red blood cells. Unlike hemoglobin, the methemoglobin formed in this interaction cannot carry sufficient oxygen to the body's cells and tissues. Although methemoglobinemia is rare among adults, cases have been reported among infants, where nitrate-contaminated well water was used to prepare formula and other baby foods. Nitrate in well water may result from point sources such as sewage disposal systems and livestock facilities, from nonpoint sources such as fertilized cropland, parks, golf courses, lawns and gardens or from naturally occurring sources of nitrogen.