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Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Carcinogen : Any substance that can cause or aggravate cancer.

Mutagen : 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.

Teratogen : Substances that cause malformation or serious deviation from normal development of embryos and fetuses.

Ozone depleting compounds : 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.

Greenhouse gasses : The warming of the Earth's atmosphere attributed to a buildup 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.

Petroleum distillates : Petroleum, a thick natural oil obtained beneath the earth, consists of various hydrocarbons, a class of chemicals containing both hydrogen and carbon. Petroleum distillates, also called hydrocarbons or petrochemicals, refer to a broad range of compounds which are extracted by distillation during the refining of crude oil.

Petroleum distillates are found in a wide variety of consumer-products including lip gloss, liquid gas, fertilizer, furniture polish, pesticides, plastics, paint thinners, solvents, motor oil, fuels and hundreds of other products. Petroleum distillates listed commonly on labels of general household products are those that distill off around naphthas. Chlorinated Solvent: An organic solvent containing chlorine atoms (e.g. methylene chloride and 1,1,1-trichloromethane). Uses of chlorinated solvents include aerosol spray containers, highway paints, and dry cleaning fluids.

Persistent : 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. Bio-accumulative substances are substances that increase in concentration in 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.

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

Readily biodegradable : Environmental specifications are directed at biodegradability which are expressed in terms of percentage of a product which will degrade in a specific length of time. Readily biodegradable products refers to materials that are quickly decomposed into harmless byproducts, while inherently biodegradable basically means they will eventually biodegrade.

Petrochemical : An intermediate chemical derived from petroleum, hydrocarbon liquids, or natural gas.

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Sources:

U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Terminology Reference System

Southwestern Petroleum Corporation, Techni-Gram, September 2003

Children's Environmental Health Network, Resource Guide

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