Children's Environmental Health Network
Resource Guide: Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Children's Environmental Health Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | V | W |

A
Abatement
Absorption
Active ingredient
Acute exposure
Agricultural pollution
Air quality standards
Air particulates
Air pollutants, hazardous
Air pollutant
Air toxics
Alternative technology
Alternative Fuels
Ambient air
Animal studies
Applied research
Arsenic
Asbestos abatement
Asbestosis
Asbestos
Attainment area

B
Background level
Bacteria
Bioaccumulants
Bioconcentration
Biological uptake
Biological magnification
Biomarkers (biological markers/monitoring)
Body burden
Brownfields

C
Cadmium (Cd)
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Carboxyhemoglobin
Carcinogen
Carry home exposures
Case study
Chlorinated hydrocarbons
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Chronic toxicity
Chronic effect
Cluster investigation
Community Right-to-Know reporting requirements
Community health investigation
Contaminant
Cumulative exposure

D
DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane)
Developmental disorders/effects
Dioxin
Disease registry
Dose
Dose response

E
Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs)
Emission standard
Emission
Endocrine disruptors
Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
Environmental fate
Environmental justice
Epidemiology
Exposure assessment
Exposure registry
Exposure

F
Fluorocarbons (FCs)
Fumigant
Fungicide
Fungi

G
Geographic information system (GIS)
Greenhouse effect

H
Half-life
Hazardous substance
Hazardous waste
Hazardous waste landfill
Hazard identification
Hazard
Health surveillance
Health investigation
Heavy metals
High risk community

I
Incinerator
Indicator
Indoor air
Indoor air pollution
Industrial waste
Inert ingredient
Ingestion
Inhalation
Insecticide
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Irreversible effect
Irritant

L
Latency
Lead (Pb)
Lifetime exposure

M
Mercury
Methylmercury
Methyl bromide
Monitoring
Morbidity
Mutagen/mutagenicity

N
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
National Priorities List (NPL)
National Exposure Registry
Neurotoxins
Nitric Oxide (NO)
Nitrate
Non-attainment area

O
Oral toxicity
Ozone (O3)
Ozone depletion

P
Particulates
Parts per billion (ppb)/parts per million (ppm)
Pathogens
PCBs
Performance standards
Persistence
Pesticide tolerance
Pesticide
Pest
Phenols
Photochemical smog
Picocuries per liter (pCi/L)
Pollutant Standard Index (PSI)
Pollution
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Population at risk
Potable water

R
Radiation standards
Radioisotopes
Radiation
Radon
Radon daughters/radon progeny
Reference dose (RfD)
Registry
Registration
Release
Remedial response
Right-to-Know
Risk factor
Risk assessment
Risk communication

S
Siting
Smog
Solvent
Superfund
Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)

T
Teratogens
Tolerances
Toxicant/toxic substance
Toxicological profile
Toxicology
Toxin
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)
Transgenerational effect

V
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

W
Water quality criteria
Wood treatment facility
Wood-burning-stove pollution

 

Abatement
Reducing the degree or intensity of, or eliminating, pollution.(1)

Absorption
The process of taking in, as when a sponge takes up water. Chemicals can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and then transported to other organs. Chemicals can also be absorbed into the bloodstream after breathing or swallowing.(4)

Active ingredient
In any pesticide product, the component that kills, or otherwise controls, target pests. Pesticides are regulated primarily on the basis of active ingredients.(
1)

Acute exposure
A single exposure to a toxic substance which results in severe biological harm or death. Acute exposures are usually characterized as lasting no longer than a day, as compared to longer, continuing chronic exposure over a period of time.(1)

Agricultural pollution
Farming wastes, including runoff and leaching of pesticides and fertilizers; erosion and dust from plowing; improper disposal of animal manure and carcasses; crop residues, and debris.(1)

Air particulates
Total suspended particulate matter found in the atmosphere as solid particles or liquid droplets. Chemical composition of particulates varies widely, depending on location and time of year. Airborne particulates include windblown dust, emissions from industrial processes, smoke from the burning of wood and coal, and motor vehicle or non-road engine exhausts.(1)

Air pollutant
Any substance in air that could, in high enough concentration, harm man, other animals, vegetation, or material. Pollutants may include almost any natural or artificial composition of matter capable of being airborne. They may be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, gases, or in combination thereof. Generally, they fall into two main groups: (1) those emitted directly from identifiable sources and (4) those produced in the air by interaction between two or more primary pollutants, or by reaction with normal atmospheric constituents, with or without photoactivation.(1)

Air pollutants, hazardous Air pollutants which are not covered by ambient air quality standards but which, as defined in the Clean Air Act, may reasonably be expected to cause or contribute to irreversible illness or death. Such pollutants include asbestos, beryllium, mercury, benzene, coke-oven emissions, radionuclides, and vinyl chloride.(1)

Air quality standards
The level of pollutants prescribed by regulations that may not be exceeded during a given time in a defined area.(1)

Air toxics
Any air pollutant for which a national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) does not exist (i.e., excluding ozone, carbon monoxide, PM-10, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide) that may reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer, developmental effects, reproductive dysfunctions, neurological disorders, heritable gene mutations, or other serious or irreversible chronic or acute health effects in humans.(1)

Alternative Fuels
Substitutes for traditional liquid, oil-derived motor vehicle fuels like gasoline and diesel. Includes methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas, and others.(1)

Alternative technology
Approach that aims to use resources efficiently or to substitute resources in order to do minimum damage to the environment. This approach permits a large degree of personal control over the technology.(1)

Ambient air
Any unconfined portion of the atmosphere: open air, surrounding air. Ambient air is usually outdoor air (as opposed to indoor air).(1)

Animal studies
Investigations using animals as surrogates for humans with the expectation that the results are pertinent to humans.(1)

Applied research
An investigative study in which the results are used in actual practice.(4)

Arsenic
A metal widely distributed in nature and found mostly in water. Industrial contamination is the primary source of airborne arsenic. Active smelters may be a source of high exposure to arsenic fumes and dust. The manufacture of pesticides and other agricultural products is the major source of occupational exposure. Arsenic has been associated with skin cancer, lung cancer, peripheral vascular disease and liver injury. Reproductive effects have been noted in animals.(3)

Asbestos
A mineral fiber that can pollute air or water and cause cancer or asbestosis when inhaled. EPA has banned or severely restricted its use in manufacturing and construction.(1)

Asbestos abatement
Procedures to control fiber release from asbestos-containing materials in a building or to remove them entirely, including removal, encapsulation, repair, enclosure, encasement, and operations and maintenance programs.(1)

Asbestosis
A disease associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers. The disease makes breathing progressively more difficult and can be fatal.(1)

Attainment area
An area considered to have air quality as good as or better than the national ambient air quality standards as defined in the Clean Air Act. An area may be an attainment area for one pollutant and a non-attainment area for others.(1)

Background level
In air pollution control, the concentration of air pollutants in a definite area during a fixed period of time prior to the starting up or on the stoppage of a source of emission under control. In toxic substances monitoring, the average presence in the environment, originally referring to naturally occurring phenomena.(1)

Bacteria
(Singular: bacterium) Microscopic living organisms that can aid in pollution control by metabolizing organic matter in sewage, oil spills or other pollutants. However, bacteria in soil, water or air can also cause human, animal and plant health problems.(1)

Bioaccumulants
Substances that increase in concentration in living organisms as they take in contaminated air, water, or food because the substances are very slowly metabolized or excreted. (See: biological magnification.)(1)

Bioconcentration
The accumulation of a chemical in tissues of an organism (such as a fish) to levels greater than in the surrounding medium in which the organism lives.(1)

Biological magnification
The process whereby certain substances such as pesticides or heavy metals move up the food chain by working their way into rivers or lakes and being eaten by aquatic organisms such as fish, which in turn are eaten by large birds, animals or humans. The substances become concentrated in tissues or internal organs as they move up the chain. (See: bioaccumulative.)(1)

Biological uptake
The transfer of hazardous substances from the environment to plants, animals, and humans. This may be evaluated through environmental measurements, such as measurement of the amount of the substance in an organ known to be susceptible to that substance. More commonly, biological dose measurements are used to determine whether exposure has occurred. The presence of a contaminant, or its metabolite, in human biologic specimens, such as blood, hair, or urine, is used to confirm exposure and can be an independent variable in evaluating the relationship between the exposure and any observed adverse health effects.(4)

Biomarkers (biological markers/monitoring)
Measuring chemicals or their metabolites in biological materials (e.g., blood, urine, breath) to estimate exposure, or to detect biochemical changes in the exposed subject before or during the onset of adverse health effects. Sometimes refers to a specific indicator for a particular disease/functional disturbance.(4)

Body burden
The total amount of a chemical in the body. Some chemicals build up in the body because they are stored in fat or bone or because they are eliminated very slowly.(4)

Brownfields
Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.(1)

Cadmium (Cd)
A heavy metal element that accumulates in the environment.(1)

Carbon monoxide (CO)
A colorless, odorless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete fossil fuel combustion.(1)

Carboxyhemoglobin
Hemoglobin in which the iron is bound to carbon monoxide (CO) instead of oxygen.(1)

Carcinogen
Any substance that can cause or aggravate cancer.(1)

Carry home exposures
Occupational exposures that are transported into the home environment via the clothes, shoes, skin, hair and cars of working parents and consequently become a source of exposure for children.(5)

Case study
The medical or epidemiologic evaluation of a single person or a small number of individuals to determine descriptive information about their health status or potential for exposure through interview or biomedical testing.(4)

Chlorinated hydrocarbons
These include a class of persistent, broad-spectrum insecticides that linger in the environment and accumulate in the food chain. Among them are DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, heptachlor, chlordane, lindane, endrin, mirex, hexachloride, and toxaphene. Other examples include trichlorethylene (TCE), used as an industrial solvent.(1)

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
A family of inert, nontoxic, and easily liquified chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants. Because CFCs are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere, they drift into the upper atmosphere where their chlorine components destroy ozone.(1)

Chronic effect
An adverse effect on a human or animal in which symptoms recur frequently or develop slowly over a long period of time.(1)

Chronic toxicity
The capacity of a substance to cause long-term poisonous human health effects.(1)

Cluster investigation
A review of an unusual number, real or perceived, of health events (for example, reports of cancer) grouped together in time and location. Cluster investigations are designed to confirm case reports, determine whether they represent an unusual disease occurrence and, if possible, explore possible causes and environmental factors.(4)

Community health investigation
Medical or epidemiologic evaluation of descriptive health information about individual persons or a population of persons to evaluate and determine health concerns and to assess the likelihood that they may be linked to exposure to hazardous substances.(4)

Community Right-to-Know reporting requirements
Part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), the Community Right-to-Know Reporting Requirements (Sections 311-314) establish reporting requirements which provide the public with important information on the hazardous chemicals in their communities. The purpose is to increase community awareness of chemical hazards and to facilitate emergency planning. ()

Contaminant
Any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water, or soil.(1)

Cumulative exposure
The summation of exposures of an organism to a chemical over a period of time.(1)

DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane)
The first chlorinated hydrocarboninsecticide. DDT has a half-life of 15 years and can collect in fatty tissues of certain animals. EPA banned registration and interstate sale of DDT for virtually all but emergency uses in the United States in 1974 because of its persistence in the environment and accumulation in the food chain.(1)

Developmental disorders/effects
Adverse effects such as altered growth, structural abnormality, functional deficiency, or death observed in a developing organism.(1)

Dioxin
Any of a family of compounds known chemically as dibenzo-p-dioxins. Concern about them arises from their potential toxicity and their contamination of commercial products. Tests on laboratory animals indicate that it is one of the more toxic man-made compounds.(1)

Disease registry
A system for collecting and maintaining in a structured record, information on persons having a common illness or adverse health condition.(4)

Dose
The amount of substance to which a person is exposed. Dose often takes body weight into account.(4)

Dose response
How a biological organism's response to a toxic substance quantitatively shifts as its overall exposure to the substance changes (e.g., a small dose of carbon monoxide may cause drowsiness; a large dose can be fatal.)(1)

Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs)
EMFs consist of low-frequency radiation that is generated when electric current flows through a high-tension wire. EMFs have been associated with an increased incidence of leukemia in children and brain cancer in adults.(6)

Emission
Pollution discharged into the atmosphere from smokestacks, other vents, and surface areas of commercial or industrial facilities; from residential chimneys; and from motor vehicle, locomotive, or aircraft exhausts.(1)

Emission standard
The maximum amount of air polluting discharge legally allowed from a single source, mobile or stationary.(1)

Endocrine disruptors
Synthetic chemicals and natural plant compounds that may affect the endocrine system (the communication system of glands, hormones and cellular receptors that control the body's internal functions). Many of these substances have been associated with developmental, reproductive and other health problems in wildlife and laboratory animals. Some experts suggest these compounds may affect humans in similar ways.(9)

Environmental fate
The destiny of a chemical or biological pollutant after release into the environment. Environmental fate involves temporal and spatial considerations of transport, transfer, storage and transformation.(4)

Environmental justice
The fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, incomes, and educational levels with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment implies that no population should be forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the negative environmental impacts of pollution or environmental hazards due to a lack of political or economic strength.(5)

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
Second hand smoke; tobacco smoke inhaled by someone in proximity to a smoker.(5)

Epidemiology
Study of the distribution of disease, or other health-related states and events in human populations, as related to such factors as age, sex, occupation, ethnic, and economic status in order to identify and alleviate health problems and promote better health.(1)

Exposure
Contact with a chemical by swallowing, by breathing, or by direct contact (such as through the skin or eyes). Exposure may be short term (acute) or long term (chronic).(4)

Exposure assessment
Identifying the pathways by which toxicants may reach individuals, estimating how much of a chemical an individual is likely to be exposed to, and estimating the number of individuals likely to be exposed.(1)

Exposure registry
A system for collecting and maintaining in a structured record information on persons with documented environmental exposure(s). The exposure registry evolved from the need for fundamental information concerning the potential impact on human health of long-term exposure to low and moderate levels of hazardous substances.(4)

Fluorocarbons (FCs)
Any of a number of organic compounds analogous to hydrocarbons in which one or more hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine. Once used in the United States as a propellant for domestic aerosols, they are now found mainly in coolants and some industrial processes. FCs containing chlorine are called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). They are believed to be modifying the ozone layer in the stratosphere, thereby allowing more harmful solar radiation to reach the Earth's surface.(1)

Fumigant
A pesticide vaporized to kill pests. Used in buildings and greenhouses.(1)

Fungi
(Singular: Fungus) Molds, mildews, yeasts, mushrooms, and puffballs. A group of organisms lacking in chlorophyll (i.e., are not photosynthetic) and which are usually non-mobile, filamentous, and multicellular. Some grow in soil, others attach themselves to decaying trees and other plants which they obtain nutrients. Some are pathogens, others stabilize sewage and digest composted waste.(1)

Fungicide
Pesticides which are used to control, deter, or destroy fungi.(1)

Geographic information system (GIS)
A computer hardware and software system designed to collect, manipulate, analyze, and display spatially referenced data for solving complex resource, environmental, and social problems.(4)

Greenhouse effect
The warming of the Earth's atmosphere attributed to a build-up of carbon dioxide or other gases; some scientists think that this build-up allows the sun's rays to heat the Earth, while infrared radiation makes the atmosphere opaque to a counterbalancing loss of heat.(1)

Half-life
1. The time required for a pollutant to lose half its effect on the environment. For example, the biochemical half-life of DDT in the environment is 15 years; of Radium, 1,580 years. 4. The time required for half of the atoms of a radioactive element to undergo self-transmutation or decay. 3. The time required for the elimination of one-half a total dose from the body.(1)

Hazard
A source of risk that does not necessarily imply potential for occurrence. A hazard produces risk only if an exposure pathway exists, and if exposures create the possibility of adverse consequences.(4)

Hazard identification
Determining if a chemical can cause adverse health effects in humans and what those affects might be.(1)

Hazardous substance
1. Any material that poses a threat to human health and/or the environment. Typical hazardous substances are toxic, corrosive, ignitable, explosive, or chemically reactive. 4. Any substance designated by EPA to be reported if a designated quantity of the substance is spilled in the waters of the United States or if otherwise released into the environment.(1)

Hazardous waste
By-products of society that can pose a substantial or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly managed. Possesses at least one of four characteristics (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity), or appears on special EPA lists.(1)

Hazardous waste landfill
An excavated or engineered site where hazardous waste is deposited and covered.(1)

Health investigation
Any investigation of a defined population, using epidemiologic methods, which would assist in determining exposures or possible public health impact by defining health problems requiring further investigation through epidemiologic studies, environmental monitoring or sampling, and surveillance.(4)

Health surveillance
The periodic medical screening of a defined population for a specific disease or for biological markers of disease for which the population is, or is thought to be, at significantly increased risk. The program should include a mechanism to refer for treatment those persons who test positive for disease (also called medical monitoring).(4)

Heavy metals
Metallic elements with high atomic weights, e.g., mercury, chromium, cadmium, arsenic, and lead; can damage living things at low concentrations and tend to accumulate in the food chain.(1)

High risk community
A community located within the vicinity of numerous sites or facilities or other potential sources of environmental exposure/health hazards that may provide high levels of exposure to contaminants or pollutants. In determining risk or potential risk, factors such as total weight of toxic contaminants, toxicity, routes of exposure, and other factors may be used.(1)

Incinerator
A furnace for burning waste under controlled conditions.(1)

Indicator
1. In biology, an organism, species, or community whose characteristics show the presence of specific environmental conditions. 4. In chemistry, a substance that shows a visible change, usually of color, at a desired point in a chemical reaction. 3. A device that indicates the result of a measurement, e.g., a pressure gauge or a moveable scale.(1)

Indoor air
The breathing air inside a habitable structure or conveyance.(1)

Indoor air pollution
Chemical, physical, or biological contaminants in indoor air.(1)

Industrial waste
Unwanted materials from an industrial operation; may be liquid, sludge, solid, or hazardous waste.(1)

Inert ingredient
Pesticide components such as solvents, carriers, dispersants, and surfactants that are not active against target pests. Not all inert ingredients are innocuous.(1)

Ingestion
Swallowing (such as eating or drinking). Chemicals can get in or on food, drink, utensils, cigarettes, or hands where they can be ingested. After ingestion, chemicals can be absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body.(4)

Inhalation
Breathing. Exposure may occur from inhaling contaminants because they can be deposited in the lungs, taken into the blood, or both.(4)

Insecticide
A pesticide compound specifically used to kill or prevent the growth of insects.(1)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
A mixture of chemical and other, non-pesticide, methods used to control pests.(1)

Irreversible effect
Effect characterized by the inability of the body to partially or fully repair injury caused by a toxic agent.(1)

Irritant
A substance that can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, or respiratory system. Effects may be acute from a single high-level exposure, or chronic from repeated low-level exposures to such compounds as chlorine, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric acid.(1)

Latency
Time from the first exposure to a chemical until the appearance of a toxic effect.(1)

Lead (Pb)
A heavy metal that is hazardous to health if breathed or swallowed. Its use in gasoline, paints, and plumbing compounds has been sharply restricted or eliminated by federal laws and regulations. (See: heavy metals.)(1)

Lifetime exposure
Total amount of exposure to a substance that a human would receive in a lifetime (usually assumed to be 70 years).(1)

Mercury
A heavy metal that can accumulate in the environment and is highly toxic if breathed or swallowed. (See: heavy metals.)(1)

Methyl bromide
Methyl bromide is a broad spectrum pesticide used in the control of pest insects, nematodes, weeds, pathogens, and rodents. Methyl bromide is toxic not only to the target pests it is used against, but to non-target organisms as well. Human exposure to high concentrations of methyl bromide can result in central nervous system and respiratory system failure, as well as specific and severe deleterious actions on the lungs, eyes, and skin. Exposure of pregnant women may result in fetal defects. Exposed persons have developed respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological problems, including inflammation of nerves and organs, and degeneration of eyes.(1)

Methylmercury
A man-made molecule, synthesized for commercial purposes and a naturally occuring compound made by certain bacteria. Methylmercury, which has found wide use as a mold killer, penetrates the brain and is a potent neurotoxin. Methylmercury also crosses the placenta and as a result, large numbers of pregnant women who were exposed in past methylmercury epidemics bore severely brain-damaged children.(5)

Monitoring
Periodic or continuous surveillance or testing to determine the level of compliance with statutory requirements and/or pollutant levels in various media or in humans, plants, and animals.(1)

Morbidity
Illness or disease. Morbidity rate is the number of illnesses or cases of disease in a population.(4)

Mutagen/mutagenicity
An agent that causes a permanent genetic change in a cell other than that which occurs during normal genetic recombination. Mutagenicity is the capacity of a chemical or physical agent to cause such permanent alteration.(1)

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
Standards established by the US Environmental Protection Agency that apply for outside air throughout the country.(1)

National Exposure Registry
A listing of persons exposed to hazardous substances. This listing is composed of chemical-specific subregistries. The primary purpose of the registry program is to create a large database of similarly exposed persons. This database is to be used to facilitate epidemiology research in ascertaining adverse health effects of persons exposed to low levels of chemicals over a long period.(4)

National Priorities List (NPL)
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) listing of sites contaminated by toxic materials that have undergone preliminary assessment and site inspection to determine which locations pose immediate threat to persons living or working near the release. These sites are most in need of cleanup.(5)

Neurotoxins
A biological or chemical substance or agent that has an adverse effect on the structure or function of the central and/or peripheral nervous system.(4)

Nitrate
Plant nutrient and inorganic fertilizer that enters water supply sources from septic systems, animal feed lots, agricultural fertilizers, manure, industrial waste waters, sanitary landfills and garbage dumps.(1)

Nitric Oxide (NO)
A gas formed by combustion under high temperature and high pressure in an internal combustion engine; changes into nitrogen dioxide in the ambient air and contributes to photochemical smog.(1)

Non-attainment area
Area that does not meet one or more of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the criteria pollutants designated in the Clean Air Act.(1)

Oral toxicity
Ability of a pesticide to cause injury when ingested.(1)

Ozone depletion
Destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer which shields the earth from ultraviolet radiation harmful to life. This destruction of ozone is caused by the breakdown of certain chlorine and/or-bromine containing compounds (chlorofluorocarbons or halons), which break down when they reach the stratosphere and then catalytically destroy ozone molecules.(1)

Ozone (O3)
Found in two layers of the atmosphere, the stratosphere and the troposphere. In the stratosphere (the atmospheric layer 7 to 10 miles or more above the earth's surface) ozone is a natural form of oxygen that provides a protective layer shielding the earth from ultraviolet radiation. In the troposphere (the layer extending up 7 to 10 miles from the earth's surface), ozone is a chemical oxidant and major component of photochemical smog. It can seriously impair the respiratory system and is one of the most widespread of all the criteria pollutants for which the Clean Air Act required EPA to set standards. Ozone in the troposphere is produced through complex chemical reactions of nitrogen oxides, which are among the primary pollutants emitted by combustion sources; hydrocarbons, released into the atmosphere through the combustion, handling and processing of petroleum products; and sunlight.(1)

Particulates
1. Fine liquid or solid particles such as dust, smoke, mist, fumes, or smog found in air or emissions. 4, Very small solids suspended in water. They vary in size, shape, density, and electrical charge, can be gathered together by coagulation and flocculation.(1)

Parts per billion (ppb)/parts per million (ppm)
Units commonly used to express contamination ratios, as in establishing the maximum permissible amount of a contaminant in water, land, or air.(1)

Pathogens
Microorganisms that can cause disease in other organisms or in humans, animals and plants (e.g., bacteria, viruses, or parasites) found in sewage, in runoff from farms or rural areas populated with domestic and wild animals, and in water used for swimming. Fish and shellfish contaminated by pathogens, or the contaminated water itself, can cause serious illness.(1)

PCBs
See Polychlorinated biphenyls.()

Performance standards
(1) Regulatory requirements limiting the concentrations of designated organic compounds, particulate matter, and hydrogen chloride in emissions from incinerators. (4) Operating standards established by EPA for various permitted pollution control systems, asbestos inspections, and various program operations and maintenance requirements.(1)

Persistence
Refers to the length of time a compound stays in the environment, once introduced. A compound may persist for less than a second or indefinitely.(1)

Pest
An insect, rodent, nematode, fungus, weed or other form of terrestrial or aquatic plant or animal life that is injurious to health or the environment.(1)

Pesticide
Substances or mixture thereof intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Also, any substance or mixture intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.(1)

Pesticide tolerance
The amount of pesticide residue allowed by law to remain in or on a harvested crop. EPA seeks to set these levels well below the point where the compounds might be harmful to consumers.(5)

Phenols
Organic compounds that are by-products of petroleum refining, tanning, and textile, dye, and resin manufacturing. Low concentrations cause taste and odor problems in water; higher concentrations can kill aquatic life and humans.(1)

Photochemical smog
Air pollution caused by chemical reactions of various pollutants emitted from different sources.(1)

Picocuries per liter (pCi/L)
A unit of measure for levels of radon gas.(1)

Pollutant Standard Index (PSI)
Measure of adverse health effects of air pollution levels in major cities.(1)

Pollution
Generally, the presence of matter or energy whose nature, location, or quantity produces undesired environmental effects. Under the Clean Water Act, for example, the term is defined as the man-made or man-induced alteration of the physical, biological, chemical, and radiological integrity of water.(1)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
A series of isomers and compounds used mainly as plasticizers, flame retardants and insulating materials. PCBs are potentially toxic and carcinogenic. Toxic effects generally involve damage to the skin and liver. PCBs have been found to cause reproductive problems in humans and cancer in laboratory animals. Further sale and new use of PCBs in the US was banned in 1979.(7)

Population at risk
A population subgroup that is more likely to be exposed to a chemical, or is more sensitive to the chemical, than is the general population.(1)

Potable water
Water that is safe for drinking and cooking.(1)

Radiation
Transmission of energy through space or any medium. Also known as radiant energy.(1)

Radiation standards
Regulations that set maximum exposure limits for protection of the public from radioactive materials.(1)

Radioisotopes
Chemical variants of an element with potentially oncogenic, teratogenic, and mutagenic effects on the human body.(1)

Radon
A colorless naturally occurring, radioactive, inert gas formed by radioactive decay of radium atoms in soil or rocks.(1)

Radon daughters/radon progeny
Short-lived radioactive decay products of radon that decay into longer-lived lead isotopes. The daughter isotopes can attach themselves to airborne dust and other particles and, if inhaled, damage the lining of the lung. Also known as radon decay products.(1)

Reference dose (RfD)
The concentration of a chemical known to cause health problems; also referred to as the ADI, or acceptable daily intake.(1)

Registration
Formal listing with EPA of a new pesticide before it can be sold or distributed: under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. EPA is responsible for registration (pre-market licensing) of pesticides on the basis of data demonstrating no unreasonable adverse effects on human health or the environment when applied according to approved label directions.(1)

Registry
A system for collecting and maintaining, in a structured record, information on specific persons from a defined population. Preliminary analyses and reviews are performed.(4)

Release
Any spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, or disposing into the environment of a hazardous or toxic chemical or extremely hazardous substance.(1)

Remedial response
Long-term action that stops or substantially reduces a release or threat of a release of hazardous substances that is serious but not an immediate threat to public health.(1)

Right-to-Know
See Community Right-to-Know Reporting Requirements.()

Risk assessment
Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the risk posed to human health and/or the environment by the actual or potential presence and/or use of specific pollutants.(1)

Risk communication
The exchange of information about health or environmental risks among risk assessors and managers, the general public, news media, interest groups, etc.(1)

Risk factor
Characteristic (e.g., race, sex, age, obesity) or variable (e.g., smoking, occupational exposure level) associated with increased probability of a toxic effect.(1)

Siting
The process of choosing a location for a facility.(1)

Smog
Air pollution associated with oxidants. (See: photochemical smog.)(1)

Solvent
A substance (usually liquid) capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other substances. Solvents include alcohols, aldehydes, benzene, toluene, glycol ethers, trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), formaldehyde and carbon tetrachloride. Drinking water is an important source of solvent exposure; solvents also pass rapidly through the skin and produce high levels in the bloodstream within minutes after skin exposure. Nearly all solvents can cause acute and chronic injury to the central nervous system. Many solvents are associated with development of kidney failure and chronic kidney disease, and others can cause acute toxic damage to the liver. The US Public Health Service has conclusively established that benzene can cause leukemia, while other solvents are suspected of being human carcinogens.(4), (6)

Superfund
The program operated under the legislative authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), and Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) that funds and carries out EPA solid waste emergency and long-term removal and remedial activities. These activities include establishing the National Priorities List, investigating sites for inclusion on the list, determining their priority, and conducting and/or supervising the site cleanup and other remedial actions.(1)

Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)
The 1986 legislation that broadened ATSDR's responsibilities in the areas of public health assessments, establishment and maintenance of toxicologic databases, information dissemination, and medical education.(4)

Teratogens
Substances that cause malformation or serious deviation from normal development of embryos and fetuses.(8)

Tolerances
Permissible residue levels for pesticides in raw agricultural produce and processed foods. Whenever a pesticide is registered for use on a food or a feed crop, a tolerance (or exemption from the tolerance requirement) must be established. EPA establishes the tolerance levels, which are enforced by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture.(1)

Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)
Database of toxic releases in the United States compiled from Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) Title III Section 313 reports.(1)

Toxicant/toxic substance
A human-made chemical or mixture that presents a risk of death, disease, injury or birth defects in organisms that ingest or absorb them.(1), (5)

Toxicological profile
An examination, summary and interpretation of a hazardous substance to determine levels of exposure and associated health effects.(1)

Toxicology
The study of the nature, effects and detection of poisons in living organisms.(5)

Toxin
A naturally occuring substance or agent that may injure an exposed organism.(5)

Transgenerational effect
A health effect that occurs in the child or subsequent offspring of the person who is exposed to an environmental toxin/toxicant.(5)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Substances containing carbon and different proportions of other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur, or nitrogen; these substances easily become vapors or gases. A significant number of VOCs are commonly used as solvents (paint thinners, lacquer thinners, degreasers, and dry cleaning fluids).(4)

Water quality criteria
Levels of water quality expected to render a body of water suitable for its designated use. Criteria are based on specific levels of pollutants that would make the water harmful if used for drinking, swimming, farming, fish production, or industrial processes.(1)

Wood treatment facility
An industrial facility that treats lumber and other wood products for outdoor use. The process employs chromated copper arsenate, which is regulated as a hazardous material.(1)

Wood-burning-stove pollution
Air pollution caused by emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, total suspended particulates, and polycyclic organic matter from wood-burning stoves.(1)

1. Glossary of Terms. US Environmental Protection Agency World Wide Website: http://www.epa.gov/r10earth/offices.air/glossary.html

2. Glossary of Terms. Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry World Wide Website: http://atsdr1.atsdr.cdc.gov:8080/glossary.html

3. Environmental Issues in Primary Care. Murdock, BS. Minnesota Department of Health: 1991.

4. Environmental Regulatory Glossary, 6th ed. Sullivan, Thomas FP. Rockville, MD: Government Institutes Inc., 1993.

5. Children's Environmental Health Network

6. Raising Children Toxic Free. Needleman, HL and Landrigan, PJ. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.

7. Dictionary of Dangerous Pollutants, Ecology and Environment. David F Tver. New York, NY: Industrial Press, Inc., 1981.

8. Dictionary and Thesaurus of Environmental Health and Safety. US Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Safety and Health, Boca Raton, FL: CK Smoley, 1994.

9. Center for Bioenvironmental Research of Tulane and Xavier Universities, Environmental Concepts Made Easy Web Site: http://www.tmc.tulane.edu/ECME/


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