Sodium nitrate
Overview
 
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 with the formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 Na
Sodium
Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...

N
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

3. This salt, also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter (due to the large deposits found in each country) to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

, is a white solid which is very soluble in water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

. The mineral form is also known as nitratine
Nitratine
Nitratine or nitratite, also known as cubic niter , soda niter or Chile saltpeter , is a mineral, the naturally occurring form of sodium nitrate, NaNO3. Nitratine crystallizes in the trigonal system, but rarely occurs as well formed crystals. It is isostructural with calcite...

, nitratite or soda niter
Niter
Niter or nitre is the mineral form of potassium nitrate, KNO3, also known as saltpeter or saltpetre . Historically, the term "niter" – cognate with "natrium", a Latin word for sodium – has been very vaguely defined, and it has been applied to a variety of other minerals and chemical compounds,...

.

Sodium nitrate may be used as a constituent of fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s, pyrotechnics
Pyrotechnics
Pyrotechnics is the science of using materials capable of undergoing self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions for the production of heat, light, gas, smoke and/or sound...

 and smoke bomb
Smoke bomb
A smoke bomb is a firework designed to produce smoke upon ignition. Smoke bombs are useful to military units, airsoft games, paintball games, self defense and pranks...

s, glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 and pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 enamels
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

, as a food preservative and a solid rocket propellant
Rocket propellant
Rocket propellant is mass that is stored in some form of propellant tank, prior to being used as the propulsive mass that is ejected from a rocket engine in the form of a fluid jet to produce thrust. A fuel propellant is often burned with an oxidizer propellant to produce large volumes of very hot...

.
Encyclopedia
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 with the formula
Chemical formula
A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound....

 Na
Sodium
Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...

N
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

3. This salt, also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter (due to the large deposits found in each country) to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

, is a white solid which is very soluble in water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

. The mineral form is also known as nitratine
Nitratine
Nitratine or nitratite, also known as cubic niter , soda niter or Chile saltpeter , is a mineral, the naturally occurring form of sodium nitrate, NaNO3. Nitratine crystallizes in the trigonal system, but rarely occurs as well formed crystals. It is isostructural with calcite...

, nitratite or soda niter
Niter
Niter or nitre is the mineral form of potassium nitrate, KNO3, also known as saltpeter or saltpetre . Historically, the term "niter" – cognate with "natrium", a Latin word for sodium – has been very vaguely defined, and it has been applied to a variety of other minerals and chemical compounds,...

.

Sodium nitrate may be used as a constituent of fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s, pyrotechnics
Pyrotechnics
Pyrotechnics is the science of using materials capable of undergoing self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions for the production of heat, light, gas, smoke and/or sound...

 and smoke bomb
Smoke bomb
A smoke bomb is a firework designed to produce smoke upon ignition. Smoke bombs are useful to military units, airsoft games, paintball games, self defense and pranks...

s, glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 and pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 enamels
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

, as a food preservative and a solid rocket propellant
Rocket propellant
Rocket propellant is mass that is stored in some form of propellant tank, prior to being used as the propulsive mass that is ejected from a rocket engine in the form of a fluid jet to produce thrust. A fuel propellant is often burned with an oxidizer propellant to produce large volumes of very hot...

. It has been mined extensively for these purposes.

History

The first shipment of Chile saltpeter to Europe arrived in England in 1820 or 1825, but did not find any buyers and was dumped at sea in order to avoid customs toll. With time, however, the mining of South American saltpeter became a profitable business (in 1859, England alone consumed 47,000 metric tons). Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 fought against the allies Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 and Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

 in the War of the Pacific
War of the Pacific
The War of the Pacific took place in western South America from 1879 through 1883. Chile fought against Bolivia and Peru. Despite cooperation among the three nations in the war against Spain, disputes soon arose over the mineral-rich Peruvian provinces of Tarapaca, Tacna, and Arica, and the...

 1879-1884 and took over the richest deposits. In 1919, Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff
Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff
Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff, Sr. was an American scientist and pioneer of X-ray crystallography. He was elected Foreign member of the Royal Society, on April 19, 1951....

 determined its crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

 structure using X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

.

Sources

The largest accumulations of naturally occurring sodium nitrate are found in Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, where nitrate
Nitrate
The nitrate ion is a polyatomic ion with the molecular formula NO and a molecular mass of 62.0049 g/mol. It is the conjugate base of nitric acid, consisting of one central nitrogen atom surrounded by three identically-bonded oxygen atoms in a trigonal planar arrangement. The nitrate ion carries a...

 salts are bound within mineral deposits called caliche ore. For more than a century, the world supply of the compound was mined almost exclusively from the Atacama desert in northern Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 until, at the turn of the 20th century, German chemists Fritz Haber
Fritz Haber
Fritz Haber was a German chemist, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his development for synthesizing ammonia, important for fertilizers and explosives. Haber, along with Max Born, proposed the Born–Haber cycle as a method for evaluating the lattice energy of an ionic solid...

 and Carl Bosch
Carl Bosch
Carl Bosch was a German chemist and engineer and Nobel laureate in chemistry. He was a pioneer in the field of high-pressure industrial chemistry and founder of IG Farben, at one point the world's largest chemical company....

 developed a process for producing ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 from the atmosphere on an industrial scale (see Haber process
Haber process
The Haber process, also called the Haber–Bosch process, is the nitrogen fixation reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, over an enriched iron or ruthenium catalyst, which is used to industrially produce ammonia....

). With the onset of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Germany began converting ammonia from this process into a synthetic Chilean saltpeter which was as practical as the natural compound in production of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 and other munitions. By the 1940s, this conversion process resulted in a dramatic decline in demand for sodium nitrate procured from natural sources.

Chile still has the largest reserves of caliche, with active mines in such locations as Pedro de Valdivia
Pedro de Valdivia
Pedro Gutiérrez de Valdivia or Valdiva was a Spanish conquistador and the first royal governor of Chile. After serving with the Spanish army in Italy and Flanders, he was sent to South America in 1534, where he served as lieutenant under Francisco Pizarro in Peru, acting as his second in command...

, María Elena
María Elena
María Elena is a Chilean city and commune in Tocopilla Province, Antofagasta Region. According to the 2002 census, the commune population was 7,530 and has an area of .- History :...

 and Pampa Blanca, and there it used to be called white gold. Sodium nitrate, potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

, sodium sulfate
Sodium sulfate
Sodium sulfate is the sodium salt of sulfuric acid. When anhydrous, it is a white crystalline solid of formula Na2SO4 known as the mineral thenardite; the decahydrate Na2SO4·10H2O has been known as Glauber's salt or, historically, sal mirabilis since the 17th century. Another solid is the...

 and iodine
Iodine
Iodine is a chemical element with the symbol I and atomic number 53. The name is pronounced , , or . The name is from the , meaning violet or purple, due to the color of elemental iodine vapor....

 are all obtained by the processing of caliche. The former Chilean saltpeter mining communities of Humberstone and Santa Laura
Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works
Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works are two former saltpeter refineries located in northern Chile. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.-Geography:...

 were declared Unesco World Heritage sites in 2005.

Sodium nitrate is also synthesized industrially by neutralizing nitric acid
Nitric acid
Nitric acid , also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid.Colorless when pure, older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen. If the solution contains more than 86% nitric acid, it is referred to as fuming...

 with soda ash
Sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate , Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Sodium carbonate is domestically well-known for its everyday use as a water softener. It can be extracted from the...


2 HNO3 + Na2CO3 → 2 NaNO3 + H2O + CO2


or by mixing stoichiometric amounts of ammonium nitrate and sodium hydroxide or sodium bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate
Sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate is the chemical compound with the formula Na HCO3. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda . The natural mineral form is...

.
NH4NO3 + NaOH → NaNO3 + NH4OH

NH4NO3 + NaHCO3 → NaNO3 + NH4HCO3

Applications

Sodium nitrate was used extensively as a fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

 and a raw material for the manufacture of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 in the late 19th century. It can be combined with iron hydroxide to make a resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

.

Sodium nitrate should not be confused with the related compound, sodium nitrite
Sodium nitrite
Sodium nitrite is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaNO2. It is a white to slight yellowish crystalline powder that is very soluble in water and is hygroscopic...

. Sodium nitrate in the brine gives cooked corned beef its classic reddish color (without it corned beef comes out gray), and it kills botulism spores. Nitrate is actually changed to nitrite by bacterial action during processing and storage and nitrate itself has no effect on meat color.

It can be used in the production of nitric acid
Nitric acid
Nitric acid , also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid.Colorless when pure, older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen. If the solution contains more than 86% nitric acid, it is referred to as fuming...

 by combining it with sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 and subsequent separation through fractional distillation
Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts, or fractions, such as in separating chemical compounds by their boiling point by heating them to a temperature at which several fractions of the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation...

 of the nitric acid, leaving behind a residue of sodium bisulfate
Sodium bisulfate
Sodium bisulfate, also known as sodium hydrogen sulfate , is an acid salt. It is a dry granular product that can be safely shipped and stored. The anhydrous form is hygroscopic. Solutions of sodium bisulfate are acidic, with a 1M solution having a pH of Sodium bisulfate, also known as sodium...

. Hobbyist gold refiners use sodium nitrate to make a hybrid aqua regia
Aqua regia
Aqua regia or aqua regis is a highly corrosive mixture of acids, fuming yellow or red solution, also called nitro-hydrochloric acid. The mixture is formed by freshly mixing concentrated nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, usually in a volume ratio of 1:3, respectively...

 that dissolves gold and other metals.

Less common applications include as an oxidizer in fireworks replacing potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

 commonly found in black powder and as a component in instant cold packs.

Sodium nitrate is used together with potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

 and Calcium nitrate
Calcium nitrate
Calcium nitrate, also called Norgessalpeter , is the inorganic compound with the formula Ca2. This colourless salt absorbs moisture from the air and is commonly found as a tetrahydrate. It is mainly used as a component in fertilizers but is found other applications...

 for heat storage and, more recently, for heat transfer
Heat transfer
Heat transfer is a discipline of thermal engineering that concerns the exchange of thermal energy from one physical system to another. Heat transfer is classified into various mechanisms, such as heat conduction, convection, thermal radiation, and phase-change transfer...

 in solar power
Solar power
Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of ever-evolving technologies. Solar radiation, along with secondary solar-powered resources such as wind and wave power, hydroelectricity and biomass, account for most of the available...

 plants.

It is also used in the wastewater industry for facultative microorganism respiration. Nitrosomonas
Nitrosomonas
Nitrosomonas is a genus comprising rod shaped chemoautotrophic bacteria.This rare bacteria oxidizes ammonia into nitrite as a metabolic process. Nitrosomonas are useful in treatment of industrial and sewage waste and in the process of bioremediation. They are important in the nitrogen cycle by...

, a genus of microorganism
Microorganism
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

s, consumes nitrate in preference to oxygen, enabling it to grow more rapidly in the wastewater to be treated.

Sodium nitrate is also a food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

 used as a preservative and colour fixative in cured meats and poultry; it is listed under its INS number 251 or E number
E number
E numbers are number codes for food additives that have been assessed for use within the European Union . They are commonly found on food labels throughout the European Union. Safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority...

 E251. It is approved for use in the EU, USA and Australia and New Zealand.

A mixture of sodium nitrate, calcium nitrate
Calcium nitrate
Calcium nitrate, also called Norgessalpeter , is the inorganic compound with the formula Ca2. This colourless salt absorbs moisture from the air and is commonly found as a tetrahydrate. It is mainly used as a component in fertilizers but is found other applications...

 and potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

 is used as energy storage material in prototype plants, such as Andasol Solar Power Station and the Archimede project.

Health concerns

Like sodium nitrite
Sodium nitrite
Sodium nitrite is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaNO2. It is a white to slight yellowish crystalline powder that is very soluble in water and is hygroscopic...

, sodium nitrate forms nitrosamine
Nitrosamine
Nitrosamines are chemical compounds of the chemical structure R1N-N=O, some of which are carcinogenic.-Usages:Nitrosamines are used in manufacture of some cosmetics, pesticides, and in most rubber products. -Occurrences:...

s – human carcinogens known to cause DNA damage and increased cellular degeneration. Studies have shown a link between increased levels of nitrates and increased deaths from certain diseases including Alzheimer's, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson's, possibly through the damaging effect of nitrosamines on DNA.
Nitrosamines, formed in cured meats containing sodium nitrate and nitrite, have been linked to gastric cancer and oesophageal cancer.
Sodium nitrate and nitrite are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer, commonly known as bowel cancer, is a cancer caused by uncontrolled cell growth , in the colon, rectum, or vermiform appendix. Colorectal cancer is clinically distinct from anal cancer, which affects the anus....

. World Cancer Research Fund UK
World Cancer Research Fund UK
World Cancer Research Fund is a cancer prevention charity in the UK and is part of the World Cancer Research Fund global network.WCRF UK funds scientific research into how diet, physical activity and weight affect cancer risk and also funds education programmes to raise awareness of its message...

, states that one of the reasons that processed meat increases the risk of colon cancer is its content of nitrate. A small amount of the nitrate added to meat as a preservative breaks down into nitrite, in addition to any nitrite that may also be added. The nitrite then reacts with protein-rich foods (such as meat) to produce N-nitroso compounds (NOCs). Some types of NOCs are known to cause cancer. NOCs can be formed either when meat is cured or in the body as meat is digested.

External links

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