U.S. Water News Online
Three Indiana women who miscarried a total of six times in two years may have become sick from well water polluted by a hog farm, according to U.S. government officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the women were drinking well water that contained high levels of nitrate, which is found naturally in trace amounts in many vegetables but can be harmful at the high levels present in animal and human feces.
The three women, who miscarried between 1991 and 1993, lived within a few miles of one another in LaGrange County, a farming community in northeastern Indiana.
One 35-year-old woman miscarried four times, all in the first 11 weeks of pregnancy. One of the women, who lived 10 miles away from the other three, suffered two miscarriages in 1994, but she was found to be drinking water contaminated not by a hog farm, but the family's septic system.
County health officials checked area wells after a resident alerted them to high nitrate levels in her water. Nineteen families were interviewed, including five women who had given birth without trouble.
"We found the women who had miscarriages had wells closer to the hog farm than the women in the area who had term deliveries," said Michele Lynberg of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.
All four women changed their drinking water and have since given birth, the CDC said.
High nitrate levels have also been linked to methenoglobinemia or "blue baby syndrome," which can cause diarrhea, lethargy, and coma, according to health officials.
About 13 million U.S. households get their drinking water from private wells, which are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, Lynberg said. "The CDC recommends that anyone with a private well evaluate the quality of that well periodically," she said.
Meanwhile, the county is developing rules to regulate feedlots and barnyards.
"Locally, there are no guidelines for manure maintenance," said William Grant, a LaGrange County Health Department administrator. "I think a lot of the contamination is just ignorance, really. We need to educate people that this manure can almost end up being a hazardous waste."
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