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Nitrites are formed by reduction of nitrate and are present in the environment at low concentrations. Nitrites can react with secondary and tertiary amino compounds to form N-nitroso compounds, a broadly acting and potent group of systemically acting carcinogens. These reactions taking place in the human stomach could constitute an important source of carcinogens. Restrictions on the amount of residual nitrite in cured meats and fish processed with nitrite would reduce exposure of man to these carcinogens.
Ambio © 1976 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences