Nitrosamines are carcinogenous chemical compounds of the chemical structure R2N-N=O. Nitrosamines are produced from nitrites and amines. Their formation can only occur under certain conditions, including strongly acidic conditions such as that of the human stomach.
The nitrite forms nitrous acid (HNO2), which splits into the nitrosyl cation (N=O+) and the hydroxide (OH-) anion. The nitrosyl cation then reacts with an amine to produce nitrosamine.
Nitrosamines are found in many foodstuffs, though not in dangerous levels, especially beer, fish, fish byproducts, and in meat and cheese products preserved with nitrite pickling salt . They are formed when the food protein reacts with nitrite salts in the stomach. They can also be formed by frying or smoking. The rule of thumb is: nitrosamine-content is lower if the food was processed less, less preservatives were used, and natural production techniques were used. In any case, only trace amounts are consumed through foodstuffs.
Nitrosamines can be found in tobacco smoke and latex products. A test of party balloons and condoms indicated that many of them release small amounts of nitrosamines. However, nitrosamines from condoms are not expected to be of toxicological significance.
- Nitroamine (without the 's'), compounds of the formula R2N-NO2.