Environmental Test Glossary

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Environmental Test Glossary
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Environmental Test Glossary

Acute Study
A test or study where the test subject is only exposed one time to determine the effect of a single exposure.

Adsorbers
A technology that utilizes resin capsules that can accumulate organic and inorganic substances to test soil, groundwater and other environmental activities without having to collect large samples.

Air Emissions
The release of pollutants into the air. This can be caused by industry, automobiles or various other methods and a large variety of pollutants may be released into the air, some being more harmful than others.

Air Toxic
A pollutant in the air that may cause chronic or acute health effects in humans, such as disease, neurological disorders, gene mutations or other irreversible conditions.

Altitude
A measure of distance or height from a starting point, usually ground level. Altitude can affect the functioning of humans and objects at certain levels and is factored into certain environmental tests.

Ambient Air
The air that is contained in a specified portion of the environment. When testing ambient air, conditions of the air, such as temperature, humidity and air quality can be determined.

Aquaculture
The farming of a variety of aquatic organisms, including different species of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Asbestos
A material that was used in building materials prior to the 1970's and has since been linked to health problems. Testing for asbestos must be done only by trained professionals and the asbestos fibers must be contained and not released into the air.

Background Levels
The level or concentration of a particular substance or chemical that is already present in the environment or other area that is being studied, other than what is being studied. The substance may occur naturally in the environment or be caused by specific activities.

Bacteria
Microorganisms that are neither plant or animals. They are the most abundant living organisms and usually are found together by the millions. Some can cause disease or illness, but there are others that are not harmful at all.

Base Saturation Test
Indicates the amount of soil that is comprised of cations: hydrogen, potassium, calcium and magnesium, and the number of cation exchange sites that exist in the soil.

Baseline
A way to assess changes in a test environment compared to a starting point or to a control subject that was not exposed to the testing substance. This helps to evaluate changes from "normal."

Bath Dumps
A quantity of chemicals that no longer serve their intended purpose or function because they have either become contaminated or have degraded over time.

Bioaccumulation
The accumulation of a substance within a living organism which may possibly result in a toxic effect.

Bioassay Test
A type of environmental test that determines the strength of a substance by comparing its effect on a test organism, in comparison to a standard preparation, to identify the differences.

Biodegradable
A process where materials naturally break down or decompose into organic matter in a relatively quick timeframe and without requiring additional processes in order for the process to proceed to completion.

Biodegradation
An ex-situ technology to handle contamination that includes processes such as excavating soil and placing in prepared treatment beds, composting, or soil piles.

Carbon Monoxide
An odorless, tasteless gas that is harmful to humans, and can result in death in unventilated areas. This gas can be created by heaters, chimneys, automobile exhaust and other combustible items.

Carcinogen
A substance or other agent that has been deemed to potentially cause cancer in living organisms, such as humans or animals.

Carcinogenicity
Cancer that is caused by chemicals. This can be due to genotoxic or non-genotoxic processes.

Chemical Extraction
A process of using solvents to dissolve contaminants from excavated waste materials. This can be effective for a wide range of concentrations of contaminants.

Chemical Reduction/Oxidation
A process of using reducing or oxidizing agents to chemically convert toxic contaminants into less toxic or non toxic compounds that are more stable or inert.

Chronic Study
A test or study where the effects of exposure to an element, suspected pathogen or substance is determined over the course of a specific period of time of continuous exposure.

Contaminant
An organic or inorganic material that can be hazardous to the health of humans, animals or other living organisms.

Control
A test sample that is not exposed to the substance or process being tested to determine that the results are associated specifically to exposure to the test material or process.

Corrosion
A process that occurs due to chemical reactions with surroundings The material that corrodes breaks down into constituent parts or weakens. Rust is a form of corrosion.

Creosote
A residue that is formed from burning wood from the unburned wood gases. The residue is oily and can build up over time.

Criteria Air Pollutants
Six air pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter) that are regulated by the EPA and are hazardous to human health.

Decompression
A reduction of pressure that results from a change from one ambient pressure to another. Decompression is used to measure the effects on products during environmental testing.

Dehalogenation
A process of remediating contaminants from excavated soil by heating it and mixing it with a reagent that renders the halogenated compounds non-toxic.

Diisocyanates
Hazardous chemicals that are used in auto body painting and can cause asthma. Due to these chemicals, operations must be well contained and persons well protected and ventilated.

Disposal
The process of removing a material, in particular waste or contaminated soil, to a licensed facility such as a landfill.

Dose Response
The changes observed by repeated doses of a test substance or chemical on the test subject or organism. This type of testing can be used for environmental testing, drug testing and to assess levels of exposure to chemicals or pollutants.

Ecosystem
A set of relationships among various living organisms, resources and habitats within a specific location (for example, animals, people, water, plants, soil, etc.)

Ecotoxicity
Negative affects that occur in organisms and living creatures that occur naturally in the environment due to chemicals (such as animals, fish, birds, amphibians, etc.)

Effluent
Industrial or municipal wastewater that is discharged from laboratories, wastewater treatment facilities, engineering firms, industrial companies and more.

EMF
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) refer to high frequency radio waves that usually occur near high voltage lines, microwave towers, and other equipment that give off electric and magnetic fields where the two fields can't be separated. This energy may disturb cell function in humans.

Emission Rate
The amount of a particular substance that is released into the air during a specific amount of time. This is figured as a ratio of quantity/time.

Endocrine Disruptor Studies
A testing method that assesses the potential reproductive effects of chemicals and substances. This test is usually conducted on aquatic vertebrates.

Endpoint
The result, symptom or specific effect or result that a test seeks to determine. Relates to the target outcome of an environmental test or trial.

Environmental Test Chambers
An enclosed area that can replicate a wide variety of environmental conditions to test products and other items. Variable conditions can relate to temperature, humidity, altitude, vibration and more.

Environmental Toxicology
The study of determining the toxicity of chemicals and pathogens found in the environment that can be harmful to humans, animals, and other living things.

EPA
The United States Environmental Protection Agency. It was established to protect human health and the environment.

Ex Situ
Tests that are performed off-site in a laboratory by removing substances from the location in question and performing the tests elsewhere. In the case of contamination, the impacted substance is removed to be treated.

Excavation
The process of removing a material, such as soil, from its natural location in order to be tested or to remove contaminants.

Explosive Atmosphere Testing
Ensures that a product or item can be safely operated when exposed to explosive vapors or other dangerous conditions (as in a gas station or airplane).

Exposure Assessment
Determining information about exposure to a specific substance, including length of exposure, as well as magnitude, duration, frequency and type. Information is used in toxicity testing.

Exposure Response
The changes observed by repeated exposure of a test substance or chemical on the test subject or organism. This type of testing can be used for environmental testing, drug testing and to assess levels of exposure to chemicals or pollutants.

FDA
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency that is responsible for protecting the health of the public in relation to food products and other health related products such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics and more.

Field Testing
Testing that occurs at the actual site or among the actual conditions of use, rather than having a sample collected and returned to the laboratory for further study.

Fugitive Release
The release of a chemical into the air that is not intended and does not come from a confined air stream (such as what happens if the chemical leaks out from an unintended place).

Fungus
A microorganism that is neither an animal or a plant and is nourished by decaying organic matter. Some are harmful, some function as decomposers, and some are even used for medical purposes.

Genotoxicity
Genetic mutations or other alterations or segregations of the genetic structure and genetic material that are chemically induced.

Greenhouse Gas
A gas, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, hydrofluorcarbons, and more that absorb infrared radiation in the atmosphere and are considered harmful.

Groundwater
Water that is contained within the ground and soil and is stored in pores, cracks and areas below the water table underground. Groundwater is the source of wellwater and water in springs.

Hazard Identification
Determining whether a substance is instrinsically harmful and then analyzing at what levels the substance may or may not cause adverse effects to living organisms.

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP)
Chemicals or other agents that have been determined by the EPA to cause serious health, environmental, or ecological effects. The Clean Air Act regulates these chemicals.

Hazardous Waste
Waste materials that can cause health concerns for humans, animals or the surrounding environment due to their composition or the management of the waste materials.

Humidity
The amount of water vapor in the air. This is usually measured as a percentage and is factored into certain environmental tests.

Immunotoxicity
Negative effects on the immune system, (such as blood cells, the thymus, and more) caused by chemicals.

In Situ
Tests that are performed on-site or in the case of contamination, remediation facilities that are located directly at the contaminated site, rather than removing the substances to another site.

Incineration
A process of removing contaminants from excavated waste by heating to very high temperatures in order to volatilize and combust the organic contaminants.

Indicator Organisms
Specific organisms used in aquatic toxicity tests or whole effluent toxicity tests to determine the effects of potential toxicants or contaminants on the organism.

Indoor Source
Areas within enclosed spaces (like buildings or homes) or objects within those spaces that release air pollutants into the air.

Inorganic
These substances are derived from minerals, rather than living organisms such as plants or animals, and do not contain carbon.

Irritation
A reaction to a chemical or other contaminant that may produce damage but is reversible (such as skin or eye irritation).

Laboratory
A facility in which experiments, scientific research and testing can occur under a controlled environment.

Lead
A highly toxic metal that can leach into water or soil or may be contained in older building materials. High levels of lead can cause negative health problems, especially in children.

Life Cycle Testing
A process of testing a product to see how it holds up over time. Vibration, temperature, altitude, load, and humidity can be varied to accelerate the simulation of a life cycle.

Mobile Source Air Toxics
Sources of air toxins that are mobile, rather than staionary, such as cars and trucks, trains, planes, lawn mowers, and more.

Mold
A fungus that grows and produces spores in the presence of moisture. It can also give off chemicals and can cause health concerns.

Natural Source
A source of emissions or other agents that occurs naturally within the environment from geological or biological sources.

Neurotoxcity
Negative effects on the nervous system, brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nervous system caused by chemicals.

Organic
Items that are somehow related to or derived from living organisms. Organic compounds are part of a group of chemical compounds that have a carbon basis.

Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS)
Chemicals or other agents or substances that have been shown to be harmful to the earth's protective ozone layer by deteriorating the amount of ozone in the atmosphere.

Particle Pollution
Small particles comprised of liquids or solids that are found in the air and add to pollution, such as dust, fumes, smoke, smog, etc.

Pesticide
A substance that is used to destroy pests or prevent pest infestations (such as insects, rodents, microorganisms). Many pesticides contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans and animals.

Point Source
A particular area where chemicals may be emitted into the air, such as from a vent, duct, pipe or stack. The chemicals from these sources are released in a confined air stream.

Radon Testing
Measures the amount of radon gasa that is present within a home or dwelling. Radon gas depends on the amount of Uranium in the earth's surface and can diffuse through the soil into a home.

Recycling
The process of reusing or reprocessing existing materials to make them into new usable products rather than allowing them to become unusable waste.

Relative Humidity
The amount of water measured in the air in relation to the total amount of water that the air can hold, expressed as a percentage of the total.

Remediation
Remedying a substance or location that contains contaminants by a variety of methods to render them safe or less toxic.

Repeat Dose Study
A testing method that uses repeated exposure to a specific chemical, substance or process to determine the effects of the exposure.

Risk Characterization
An analysis combining hazard identification and exposure assessment in the process of toxicity testing to determine what the real effect may be in a real world situation.

Sample Collection
A sample of the material or materials that are to be tested for environmental purposes. In some cases the sample is tested onsite and in others a sample collection is taken based on specific criteria and brought to a laboratory for additional analysis.

Sediment Studies
Testing of sediment that is contained at the bottom of a body or area of water in order to determine composition, chemical analysis, quality and presence of contaminants.

Soil Washing
A process of remediating contaminants from excavated soils by separating the soil particles with a solution that contain agents to remove the contaminants.

Solar Radiation
The amount of radiant electromagnetic energy that is emitted by the sun. There are different frequency waves of energy and the varying bands of energy can have varying effects.

Static Renewal Test
A process of periodically transferring test subjects to new chambers with fresh solutions of test solutions during the course of a chronic study.

Statistical Analysis
A way to mathematically assess the results of testing to accurately determine the results.

Suction Lysimeters
A method of collecting solutions to test soil and groundwater through porous cups. It is an industry standard used to monitor nitrate leaching in groundwater.

Thermal Desorption
A process of removing contaminants from excavated waste by heating the material to volatilize contaminants, which are then removed using carbon adsorption filters.

Thermal Vacuum
A testing method to simulate environmental parameters for use in testing products under specific conditions. These chambers maintain a high vacuum process.

Toxicant
An agent or specific substance or process that produces an adverse effect in a biological system, resulting in abnormalities in health, growth, reproduction or even death.

Toxicity
A measure or level of how harmful a substance is to humans, animals, plants or the environment.

Vapor
A gas that is given off by solids or liquids at a particular temperature or pressure level. Some vapors are harmless, but others can be hazardous.

Vitrification
A process of rendering contaminants in excavated soil and sludges immobile by melting them at high temperatures to form a vitreous slag.

VOC
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are compounds that contain carbon and can easily evaporate into the air and react with other chemicals. VOCs can lead to health concerns and contribute to the production of ozone. They are often found in paint, solvents, and other liquid substances.

Wastewater
Water that has already been used and is not suitable for reuse, such as that from manufacturing processes, or water that contains sewage or other harmful materials.

Water Testing
A process of testing water to ensure safety and measure the amount of pollutants, contaminants, microbes, pathogens, or microbes in the water.

Whole Effluent Toxicity Test
A testing method that evaluates the potential harmfulness of effluents that are released into surface water by exposing specific organisms to the whole effluent to determine the effects on the organisms.

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