This glossary is intended to help understand terms related to Environmental Health Science. Some terms courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Filter by First Letter:

  • Five-G (5G) - The fifth version of a product or system. 5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond lte mobile networks.

    (Photo courtesy of NIEHS)
  • A form of discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities. (Environmental Factor)

    (Photo courtesy of NIEHS)
  • Acid Rain — When sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react in the atmosphere with water, it returns to earth as polluted rain, fog, or snow.

    (Photo courtesy of NIEHS)

A

Ableism:

A form of discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.
Source: https://factor.niehs.nih.gov/2022/12/beyond-the-bench/diversity-speaker-series

Acid Rain:

When sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react in the atmosphere with water, it returns to earth as polluted rain, fog, or snow.
Source: NIEHS EHS Glossary

Acrylamide:

A chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/acrylamide/

Activated Carbon Filtration System:

A gas-phase air filter that removes gaseous pollutants using a material called a sorbent, such as activated carbon, to collect pollutants.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Aerosols:

Small suspended particles in a gas that range in size from one nanometer (about 1/10,000 diameter of a human hair) to 100 micrometers (a dust speck).
Source: N/A

Agricultural Health:

The study of environmental, occupational, dietary, and genetic factors on the health of farmers, farm families, and others who work with and are exposed to agricultural chemicals.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/population/agricultural/

Air Pollution:

Pollutants in the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet. Can include components such as particulate matter, ozone, or noxious gases.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution/

Allergens:

A substance that causes an allergic reaction.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/allergens/

Allergic Reaction:

An abnormal physiological response by a sensitive person to a chemical or physical stimuli that causes no response in nonsensitive individuals.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Aloe Vera:

A succulent plant widely used in alternative medicine.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/aloe/

Anemia:

A condition in which the blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of the body; the most common cause of anemia is not having enough iron.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Antibiotic:

A chemical originally produced by a microorganism, which inhibits or prevents the growth of another microorganism. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Aquaculture:

Also known as fish or shellfish farming, seafood grows in controlled waters for commercial or recreational use.
Source: NLM/NIEHS EHS glossary

Aquifers:

An underground level or permeable rock, sand, or gravel saturated by groundwater.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Arsenic:

A grayish-white element having a metallic luster, vaporizing when heated, and forming poisonous compounds.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/arsenic/

Asbestos:

Any of several minerals (as chrysotile) that readily separate into long flexible fibers that have been used especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Assays:

A qualitative or quantitative test for a particular chemical effect.
Source: : Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Asthma:

A respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/

Atomic Nuclei:
The small, dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
Autoimmune Diseases:

Over 80 different conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy body cells. They likely result from genetic and environmental factor interactions.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autoimmune

B

Barometer:

An instrument for determining the pressure of the atmosphere.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Bioaccumulate:
Accumulation of substances in living organisms as they take in contaminated air, water, or food; occurs when a substance is absorbed faster than it can be excreted.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
Biofuels:

Derived from biological materials, such as algae and plants, that can be regenerated. Distinguished from fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable. Examples include ethanol, methanol, and biodiesel.
Source: EPA.gov

Biologics:

The immunization vaccines, antigens, anti-toxins, and other preparations made from living organisms and their products intended for use in diagnosing, immunizing, and treating humans and animals or in related research.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Biomagnify:

The process by which a compound (such as a pollutant or pesticide) increases its concentration in the tissues of organisms as it travels up the food chain.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Biotechnology:

An applied science that uses living organisms like plants and bacteria to produce products for healthcare, energy, and environmental safety.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Black Lung Disease:

Coal worker's pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease, results from breathing in dust from coal, graphite, or manmade carbon over a long period.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Bronchitis:

An inflammation of the bronchial linings causing a persistent cough, copious amounts of sputum, and involuntary muscle spasms that constrict the airways.
Source: : Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Buckyballs:

Is a spherical fullerene molecule with the formula C60.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminsterfullerene

C

Cadmium:

A soft, silver-white metal in its pure state used in the production of nickel-cadmium batteries; in metal plating, plastics, and synthetics; for alloys and other miscellaneous uses.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Carbon Cycle:

The process by which living things absorb carbon from the atmosphere, sediments and soil, or food. To complete the cycle, carbon returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane by respiration, combustion, or decay.
Source: EPA.gov

Carcinogen:

Any substance that is capable of inducing the production of cancer.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Cataracts:

A clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision; cataracts are very common in older people.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Chlorides:

Compounds of chlorine with another element or group.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Climate Change:

Climate is the average weather in a region over time. Climate change refers to major, long-term changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns. Natural factors or human activities may cause climate change and impact the environment.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Coastal Wetlands:

Saltwater and freshwater wetlands located within coastal watersheds, specifically USGS 8-digit hydrologic unit watersheds which drain into the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, or Gulf of Mexico
Source: https://climatechange.ucdavis.edu/climate/definitions/coastal-wetlands

Coliform Bacteria:

Bacteria that are always present in the digestive tracts of animals, including humans, and are found in their wastes; also found in plant and soil material.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Consumer Confidence Report (CCR):

An annual water quality report or a drinking water quality report, that provides information on your local drinking water quality.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Corrosion:

The action, process, or effect of corroding, which is to wear away gradually usually by chemical action.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Creosote:

A wood preservative derived from the distillation of tar from wood or coal.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Crustaceans:

Any of a large class of mostly aquatic arthropods that include lobsters, shrimp, crabs, wood lice, water fleas, and barnacles.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Cryptosporidium:

Any of a large class of mostly aquatic arthropods that include lobsters, shrimp, crabs, wood.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Crystalline Silica:

A basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals; may become particles small enough to inhale when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind objects that contain it.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Curing:

To add preservatives and flavors (salt, sugar, nitrates) to meat in order to improve flavor, color, and shelf life.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

D

Dander:

Tiny scales from hair, feathers, or skin that may cause allergies and affect indoor air quality; household pets are sources of saliva and animal dander.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

DDT:

A colorless odorless water-insoluble insecticide.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Dengue Fever:

An infection caused by a virus spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Diabetes:

The name commonly give to a condition for a disorder characterized by a raised blood sugar (glucose) level.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Diethylstilbestrol (DES):

A synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen, linked to a type of cancer of the cervix and vagina, that was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage and related pregnancy complications.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Dioxin:

A highly toxic compound produced as a byproduct in some manufacturing processes, notably herbicide production and paper bleaching. It is a serious and persistent environmental pollutant.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/dioxins/

Domoic Acid Poisoning:

A neurotoxin contained in some fish and shellfish; exposure to this compound affects the brain, causing seizures and possibly death.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Dredges:

A tool usually in the form of an oblong iron frame with an attached bag net used especially for gathering fish and shellfish.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Drywell:

A hole in the ground filled with gravel or rubble to receive drainage water and allow it to percolate away.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

E

E. coli:

A type of bacteria (Escherichia coli) that lives in intestines; most types of E. coli are harmless, but some types can cause diarrhea.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Ecosystem:

The totality of life within a given interrelated and self-sustaining system existing in a defined geographical area.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Ecosystem Services:

The benefits or "services" of an ecosystem to human life, such as clean water and the decomposition of organic matter.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Electromagnetic Fields:

Invisible areas of energy that are associated with the use of electrical power and various forms of natural and man-made lighting.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/emf/

Embalming Fluid:

A fluid injected into the arteries to preserve a dead body.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Emissions:

A discharge of pollutants into the environment; generally used in regard to discharges into the air.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Emphysema:

A chronic disease of the lungs in which the lung tissue becomes destroyed and the affected area is unable to participate in the transfer of oxygen to the body.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Encephalitis:

An inflammation of the brain caused by a viral (usually) infection or a bacterial infection.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Endocrine:
Relating to or denoting glands which secrete hormones or other products directly into the blood.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/
 
Endocrine Disruptor:

Chemicals that can interfere with hormones at certain doses.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/

Endocrine Gland:

A structure in the body that produces hormones which are then secreted directly into the bloodstream.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Endometriosis:

The presence and growth of functioning endometrial tissue in places other than the uterus that often results in severe pain and infertility.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Environmental Health:
Pollution of the air, water, or soil can lead to health problems. Environmental health is the practice of identifying and reducing exposure to these pollutants.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
Environmental Justice:

The EPA defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, culture, national origin, income, and educational levels with respect to protective environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Epigenesis:

Development of a plant or animal from an egg or spore through a series of processes in which unorganized cell masses differentiate into organs and organ systems.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Ergonomic Injury:

An injury resulting from the cumulative effect of repetitive motions or repetitive stress (e.g., sustained awkward posture).
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Essential Oils:

Concentrated plant extracts that retain the natural smell and flavor of their source and are obtained through mechanical pressing or distillation.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/essential-oils/

Excavation:
A cavity formed by cutting, digging, or scooping.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
Experimental Design:

A study that can test cause and effect relationships between subjects under specific treatment conditions.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Exposome:

Everything the body is exposed to throughout life.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/exposure/bio/

Exposure Science:

The study of our contact, such as by swallowing, breathing, or touching, with environmental factors and their effects on the human body.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/exposure/

Extreme Weather:

Unexpected, unusual, unpredictable severe or unseasonal weather; weather at the extremes of the historical distribution.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/extremeweather/

F

Fatty Tissue (Adipose Tissue):

The fat storage tissue in the bodies of animals. It is primarily a food storage mechanism but also provides thermal insulation and protects internal organs from external physical damage.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Feedstock:

Raw material, usually plant or agricultural waste, that can be converted into fuel or energy.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Fertilizers:

A substance that adds inorganic or organic plant nutrients to soil and improves its ability to grow crops, trees, or other vegetation.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Fiberglass:
A composite material of glass fibers in resin; used in nail wrap applications to brace natural nails or artificial tips.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5):

A complex air pollutant mixture that can include metals, organic chemicals, acid droplets, and soil or dust particles.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Fission:

The splitting of an atomic nucleus resulting in the release of large amounts of energy.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Five-G (5G):

The fifth version of a product or system. 5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks beyond LTE mobile networks.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/cellphones/

Flame Retardants:

Chemicals that are applied to materials to prevent the start or slow the growth of fire.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/flame_retardants/

Forever Chemicals:

Synthetic chemicals, such as PFAS, that are oil-, water-, or heat-resistant. Their strong molecular bonds take many years to degrade, allowing them to accumulate in the environment.
Source: N/A

Formaldehyde:

A colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical widely used to make home building products.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/formaldehyde/

Fossil Fuels:

A fuel (such as coal, oil, or natural gas) formed in the earth from plant or animal remains; fossil fuels are the nation's principal source of electricity; they cannot be replenished once they are extracted and burned.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Fumigants:

A pesticide used to control or destroy fungi on food or grain crops.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Furans:

A flammable liquid chemical compound that is obtained from wood oils of pines or made synthetically and is used especially in organic synthesis; also: any of various derivatives of furan.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

G

Gamma Rays:

Radiant electromagnetic energy of a very short wavelength capable of penetrating most substances; it is given off by radioactive substances and during fission and fusion reactions.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Gelatin:

A gummy material obtained from animal tissues by boiling.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Geothermal Energy:

Heat energy generated by the earth's interior.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Ginkgo Biloba:

One of the world's oldest living tree species, which has been used for many years for a variety of medicinal purposes.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/ginkgo/

Global Health:

The area of study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/

Global Temperature:

An average of air temperature recordings from weather stations and satellites. Worldwide, 2006-2015 was the warmest decade on record since thermometer-based observations began nearly 150 years ago.
Source: https://climatechange.ucdavis.edu/climate/definitions

Grantee:

The recipient of a grant, scholarship or fellowship, or some other funding source from NIEHS or other NIH institute.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/funding/grants/

Greenhouse Gas:

Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Greenhouse Gases:

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Groundwater:

The water found below the surface of the land and contained in the pore spaces of saturated rock, sand, or gravel; the source of water found in wells and springs.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Gynecomastia:

A condition of overdevelopment or enlargement of breast tissue in men or boys, often during puberty. But it is also seen in newborn babies and in men as they age.
Source: EPA.gov

 

H

Hair Dye:
Hair Dyes, which changes the hair color, contain many different chemicals that may act as carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
 
Hantavirus:

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rare but deadly viral infection spread by mice and rats.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Hormone:

A chemical substance in animals secreted by the endocrine gland, used to regulate metabolic activity.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Hydrologic Model:

A computer analysis of large amounts of historical data that helps predict how variables like temperature, rain, and carbon dioxide levels might affect the hydrologic cycle.
Source: https://climatechange.ucdavis.edu/climate/definitions/coastal-wetlands

Hypoallergenic:

Having little likelihood of causing an allergic response.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

I

Incomplete Combustion:

The incomplete burning of natural gas, gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas, oil, diesel fuel, kerosene, coal, charcoal, or wood that produces carbon monoxide.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Inflammation:

The primary host response to infection. Also an essential component of the response to most other forms of injury.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/inflammation/

Ingestion (Swallowing):

Absorbing by eating or drinking.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Inorganic:

Material such as sand, salt, iron, calcium salts, and other mineral materials; inorganic substances are of mineral origin, whereas organic substances are usually of animal or plant origin.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Insecticides:

Substances intended to repel, kill, or control insects.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

J

Justice40 Initiative:
Aims to make 40% of benefits from federal investments in climate change, clean energy, and other areas go to underserved communities.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

 

L

Lead:

A metal with many industrial uses that is also toxic. No amount of lead is safe for people.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/lead/

Leukemia:

A form of cancer of the blood in which the number of white blood cells is increased.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Liquefied Natural Gas:

Natural gas converted to liquid form by cooling to a very low temperature.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Low-emitting:

Gives off relatively small amounts of something.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Lupus:

A long-term, autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autoimmune/

Lyme Disease:

A bacterial infection spread by the bite of an infected tick.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

M

Malaria:

A serious disease caused by a parasite and spread by the bite of an infected mosquito; malaria is a major cause of death worldwide, but it is almost wiped out in the United States.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Masonry:

Work performed by a skilled worker who builds by laying units of substantial material (such as stone or brick).
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Melatonin:

A hormone that is derived from serotonin, is secreted by the pineal gland especially in response to darkness, and has been linked to the regulation of circadian rhythms.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Meningitis:

A viral or bacterial disease marked by inflammation of membranes in the brain and spinal cord; swimming or playing in polluted water can cause meningitis.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mercury:

A silver-white poisonous heavy metallic element that is liquid at ordinary temperatures and is used especially in batteries, in dental amalgam, and in scientific instruments.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/mercury/

Mesoscale:

A measure of distance useful for local winds, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. It ranges from a few to a few hundred miles.
Source: https://climatechange.ucdavis.edu/climate/definitions/coastal-wetlands

Mesothelioma:

A usually malignant tumor derived from mesothelial tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs; the cancer usually starts in the lungs, but can also start in the abdomen or other organs.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Metabolite:

Any chemical produced as a result of a living organism’s metabolism or another substance it has absorbed.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Metastasis:

The process whereby a malignant cell is detached from a primary tumor and is disseminated in the body to set up secondary tumors elsewhere.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Methylmercury:

Any of various toxic compounds of mercury containing the complex CH3Hg? that often occur as pollutants which accumulate in living organisms (as fish) especially in higher levels of a food chain.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Microbiome:

The microorganisms in a particular environment, including the body or a part of the body.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/microbiome/

Micrometers:

A unit of measure; size of particulate matter particles is measured in micrometers; the average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mineral:

An inorganic substance; something neither animal nor vegetable.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Miscarriage:

An unexpected loss of pregnancy.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mixtures Research:

The study of how environmental exposures consisting of numerous chemicals, manmade and natural, affect human health.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Mold:

A superficial often woolly growth produced especially on damp or decaying organic matter or on living organisms by a fungus.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/mold/

Molds:

Microscopic organisms found indoors and outdoors that play an important role in the breakdown of plant and animal matter. When disturbed, molds release tiny cells called spores into the surrounding air.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/mold/index.cfm

Moorings:

A place where a boat or ship are held fast with lines or anchors.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mortuary:
An establishment with facilities for the preparation of the dead for burial or cremation; a funeral home or morgue.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
Munitions:

Military weapons, ammunition, and equipment.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mutagen:

Anything that harmfully changes DNA in a cell, which can lead to diseases, such as cancer. Examples of mutagens include radioactive substances, ultraviolet radiation, and certain chemicals.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

N

Naegleria:

A single-celled organism commonly found in warm freshwater and soil. Only one type infects people: Naegleria fowleri. Exposure symptoms range from headache and nausea to seizure and hallucination.
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html

Nanomaterial:

A material having particles or constituents of nanoscale dimensions, or one that is produced by nanotechnology.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-nano/

Nanotechnology:

The science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale especially to build microscopic devices.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Nephropathy:

An abnormal state of the kidney; especially: one associated with or secondary to some other pathological process.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Neurotransmitter:

A substance that facilitates the transmission of the signal from a nerve to the cell.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Neutrons:

An uncharged elementary particle present in all known atomic nuclei except the hydrogen nucleus.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

O

Obesity:
A condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/obesity/
 
Obesogens:

Artificial chemicals believed to contribute to obesity. They are found in various food containers, baby bottles, toys, plastics, cookware, and cosmetics.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Off-gas:

A term referring to the fact that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in our homes are released by consumer and household products, and these chemicals then enter the indoor air we breathe.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Ore:

A naturally occurring mineral containing a valuable substance (such as metal) for which it is mined and worked.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Organic Matter:

Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Oxidative Damage (Stress):

Physiological stress on the body that is caused by the cumulative damage done by free radicals inadequately neutralized by antioxidants and that is held to be associated with aging.
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Ozone:

A colorless, odorless gas. It is found naturally in the earth's stratosphere, where it absorbs the ultraviolet component of incoming solar radiation.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/ozone/

P

Parasite:

An organism living in, with, or on another organism (host); gets nutrients from its host.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Parkinson's Disease:

A progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/parkinson/

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS):

Synthetic chemicals found in many products, including food packaging, household cleaners, and nonstick cookware.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc/

Perchlorate:

A molecule that can occur naturally in the atmosphere or is manufactured for industrial products such as rocket propellant, explosives, and road flares. Linked to thyroid problems in people.
Source: EPA.gov

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA):

Historically the most widespread form of PFAS in the environment. Major U.S. manufacturers no longer make it, but alternatives are used in its place.
Source: N/A

Pesticide:

A substance used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pesticides/

Petroleum:

An oily liquid, made of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons with small amounts of other substances, that occurs in many places in the upper strata of the earth; is prepared for use as gasoline, naphtha, or other products by various refining processes.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Pharmaceuticals:

Of or relating to the production and sale of drugs and medicine.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Phthalates:

Often called plasticizers, these chemicals make hundreds of products more durable, such as personal-care products, food packaging, toys, and flooring.
Source: N/A

Phthalic Anhydride:

A white solid with a characteristic, acrid odor. It is used in the manufacture of plasticizers; in the manufacture of unsaturated polyester resins for use in structural building parts, swimming pools, automotive parts, and luggage.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Phytoestrogens:

Plant-derived compounds found in many foods such as soy. Some are linked to health benefits, including a lowered risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer, while others are endocrine disruptors that may harm health.
Source: EPA.gov

Plague:

An infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia pesti, found mainly in rats and in the fleas that feed on them.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Plasticizers:

An additive to paint, varnish, cement or similar to increase its workability.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Pleural Membrane:

The delicate layer of tissue that surrounds the lungs.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Pneumonia:

An inflammation of the tissues of the lung.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Pollen:

A fine powdery substance, typically yellow, consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/allergens/pollen/

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs):

Banned in 1977 because of potential harm to immune and nervous systems, these toxic compounds remain in the environment. PCBs were used in old fluorescent fixtures, some electrical devices, and hydraulic oils.
Source: EPA.gov

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs):

A class of chemicals that result from burning coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or tobacco. They bind to or form small particles in the air. High heat when cooking meat and other foods will also form PAHs.
Source: EPA.gov

Postdoctoral Fellowship:

A training-focused position for people who have earned a doctorate degree. It is a stepping-stone between being a student and full-time professional.
Source: https://orise.orau.gov/resources/stem/professional-development/becoming-a-postdoc/what-is-a-postdoc.html

Precision Environmental Health:

Understanding an individual's susceptibility to disease through analysis of his or her genetic profile and cumulative environmental exposures.
Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Promoter:

A region of DNA where copying a gene sequence to messenger RNA begins. The promoter region controls when and where a gene of interest will be expressed.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/gene-env/

Pulmonary Fibrosis:

The scarring or thickening of the lungs.
Source: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/idiopathic-pulmonary-fibrosis

Pyrogenic:

A substance that causes a rise in body temperature.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

 

R

Radiation:

The transmission of radiant energy in the forms of electromagnetic waves, streams of particles, sound or heat.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Radioactive Tracers:

A radioactive drug used to create images of internal organs and to diagnose and treat disease; specially designed cameras allow doctors to track the path of the drug as it moves through the body.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Radioactive Waste:

Waste exhibiting radioactivity, which is the property of emitting energetic particles (such as electrons or alpha particles) or waves resulting from the disintegration of atomic nuclei.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Radioactivity:

The quality of emitting or the emission of particulate or electromagnetic radiation resulting from the decay of the nuclei of unstable elements.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Radon:

A colorless, odorless gas. It is produced by the radioactive decay of radium. Found in small amounts in soil, rocks, and the air near the ground.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/radon/

Rat-Bite Fever:

A rare bacterial disease spread by the bite of an infected rodent.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Reverse Osmosis System:

A drinking water purification technology that forces water through a semipermeable membrane to remove most contaminants; also used in wastewater treatment.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Riptides (Rip Current):

A strong, usually narrow surface current flowing outward from a shore; at ocean beaches, strong surf and riptides can injure swimmers or cause them to drown.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever:

A bacterial disease spread by the bite of an infected tick.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

S

Salmonella:

A group of bacteria that is a common cause of foodborne illness.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

SARS-CoV-2:

A new coronavirus that is the cause of COVID-19.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/coronavirus/

Sentinel Species:

Plants and animals that can biologically indicate whether certain environmental conditions may pose risks to human health.
Source: N/A

Septic:

Used for sewage treatment and disposal.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Silica Dust:

A natural compound of silicon and oxygen found mostly in sand; long-term exposure to fine particulate silica dust from quartz rock causes progressive lung injury, silicosis.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Silicosis:

A lung disease caused by breathing in (inhaling) silica dust.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Sinusitis:

An inflammation of the sinus.
Source: Illustrated Dictionary and Resource Directory of Environmental and Occupational Health

Smelter:

A facility that melts or fuses ore to separate its metal content; emissions may cause pollution.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Smog:

The brownish haze that pollutes the air, making it difficult for some people to breathe; its primary component is ozone.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Sterilize:

To kill germs to prevent infections.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Styrene:

An unsaturated liquid hydrocarbon obtained as a petroleum byproduct, used to make plastics and resins.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/styrene/

Subsistence Fishing/Hunting:

A system of hunting or fishing that provides all or almost all the goods required by the family, usually without any significant surplus for sale.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Sulfur Dioxide:

A colorless, water-soluble, acidic gas that is produced from the combustion of fossil fuels.
Source: Dictionary of Environmental Health

Synthetic:

Of, relating to, or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis; especially: produced artificially.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

T

Tailings:

Residue separated in the preparation of various products (such as grain or ores)—usually used in plural.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Tallow:

The white, nearly tasteless solid-rendered fat of cattle and sheep used chiefly in soap, candles, and lubricants.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Textiles:

Woven or knit fabric; a fiber or yarn used in making cloth.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Thyroid Gland:

An organ located beneath the larynx (voice box) that makes hormones that regulate growth, development and metabolism.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Tidal Flats:

Commonly muddy or marshy land that is covered and uncovered by the rise and fall of tides.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Tinnitus:

A ringing in one or both ears that may be soft or loud, high pitched or low pitched; it may cause trouble hearing, working, or sleeping.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Titanium Dioxide:

A powder used as a white pigment in products such as sunscreens, cosmetics, paints, and plastics. Repeated exposure may cause bronchitis with coughing, phlegm, or shortness of breath.
Source: https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1861.pdf

Toxicogenomics:

a field of science that deals with the collection, interpretation, and storage of information about gene and protein activity within particular cell or tissue of an organism in response to toxic substances.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxicogenomics

Toxicology:
The branch of science concerned with the nature, effects, and detection of poisons.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/science/toxicology/
 
Translational Research:

Turns scientific discoveries made in a laboratory, clinic, or fieldwork into new medical treatments and health approaches that improve well-being.
Source: https://tracs.unc.edu/index.php/clinical-translational-research

TRAP:

Air pollution that comes from fossil fuel combustion in motor vehicles.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/air-pollution/

U

Un-ventilated:

The circulation of air through a building in order to expel noxious air and admit clean, fresh air.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

V

Vape:

The action or practice of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.
Source: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/allergens/smoke/

Ventilation:

The circulation of air through a building in order to expel noxious air and admit clean, fresh air.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Vertigo:

A feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness, or that the room is spinning.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Vitamin D:

Helps maintain strong bones, boosts immune system, and aids nervous system. Sunlight exposure helps the body make it. Also found in some foods and dietary supplements.
Source: N/A

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs):

Many VOCs are human-made chemicals used to manufacture paints, dry cleaning agents, and refrigerants. Emitted as gases, they can affect indoor air quality.
Source: EPA.gov

W

West Nile Virus:

An infectious disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Y

Yellow Fever:

A viral infection spread by mosquitoes.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine

Z

Zika Virus:

A virus that is spread mostly by mosquitoes; a pregnant mother can pass it to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth; it can spread through sexual contact.
Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine