Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

There is A LOT of confusing terminology used in both the health field and with all things home related. I created this glossary of the most common terms used in the overlap of both the health and home fields, as well as terms I may use on this website. This is so that if there is ever anything that ever seems confusing, you can come here for a (hopefully) easy to understand definition and clarity. if you still have questions, feel free to contact me!



The process by which one thing absorbs or is absorbed by another. It is one of the routes of exposure for chemicals into the body.


Occurring over a short time, usually minutes to hours

Acute Effect

An adverse effect on any living organism when severe symptoms develop rapidly. Symptoms often disappear or diminish after exposure stops. 

Adverse Birth Outcomes

Examples of adverse birth outcomes include pre-term births, low birth weight, genital abnormalities, miscarriage, or neurodevelopmental defects. Adverse birth outcomes may be the result of harmful environmental exposures to the mother and father, prior to and during the pregnancy, as well as from other sources.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR)

A  federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Air Quality Index (AQI)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed the AQI for reporting daily air quality with regard to five major air pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The AQI how clean or polluted the air quality at a given time poses a risk to health. 

Air Quality System (AQS)

A  database which contains ambient air pollution data collected by the U.S. EPA and by state, local, and tribal air pollution control agencies.

Air Toxic

Any air pollutant that is likely to cause serious or irreversible long-term health effects in humans. Air toxics may cause cancer, developmental effects, reproductive problems, neurological disorders, and genetic mutations. They include pollutants for which a national ambient air quality standard does not exist.

Ambient Air

Any unconfined portion of the atmosphere: outdoor air


A substance measured in the laboratory. A chemical for which a sample (such as water, air, or blood) is tested in a laboratory.


A naturally occurring element widely distributed in the Earth’s crust. In the environment, arsenic is combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Inorganic arsenic compounds are mainly used to preserve wood. Organic arsenic compounds are used as pesticides, primarily on cotton plants.


A heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral that can be woven into fabrics, and is used in fire-resistant and insulating materials such as brake linings.


A serious, chronic lung disease that causes the airways to become narrow and makes it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks are often caused by environmental triggers, such as molds, dust mites and tobacco smoke. 

Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy (AAG)

A rare autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages certain parts of the autonomic nervous system. Signs and symptoms of the condition vary but may include severe orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing); fainting; constipation; fixed and dilated pupils; urinary retention; and/or dry mouth and eyes.

Autonomic Nervous System

The Autonomic Nervous System controls the “automatic” functions of the body that we do not consciously think about, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye, kidney function, and temperature control. People living with various forms of dysautonomia have trouble regulating these systems, which can result in lightheadedness, fainting, unstable blood pressure, abnormal heart rates, malnutrition, and in severe cases, death.

Background Level

A concentration of chemicals that is present in the environment either due to natural occurrence or from man-made sources.


a movement promoting the use of healthy building principles as a means to improve living and work spaces and the health of people who occupy them. It is also the science of holistic interactions between life and the living environment. Bau-biologie literally means, “building biology.” Both terms are now used interchangeably and both have exactly the same definition: how buildings impact life and the living environment.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

The largest, continuously conducted, telephone health survey in the world. It enables the Center for Disease Control (CDC), state health departments, and other health agencies to monitor modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases and other leading causes of death. 


Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Benzene is formed from natural processes, such as volcanoes and forest fires, but most exposure to benzene results from human activities.The main way people are exposed is by breathing in air containing benzene. Benzene can also be absorbed through the skin during contact with a source such as gasoline, but because liquid benzene evaporates quickly, this is less common.  Benzene is cited by the EPA and OSHA as a threat to public health.


The ability of materials to break down and return to nature. In order for packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal.

Birth Defects

An abnormal condition that occurs before or at the time of birth. Birth defects include a wide range of abnormalities with varying levels of impact. Examples of birth defects include spina bifida, cleft palate, upper and lower limb deformities.

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

A toxic gas that you cannot smell or see. CO is given off whenever fuel or other materials are burned. Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A disease that affects the amount of oxygen getting to the brain and vital organs. As CO gas is inhaled, it readily  displaces oxygen in the blood, leading to headache, dizziness, nausea, and at high concentrations, people can become unconscious or die.


Substances, including radionuclides or radiation, that are directly involved in the initiation or promotion of cancer.


Carpet is a major source of toxic chemicals in the home, typically containing well over 100 chemicals in its fiber-bonding material, dyes, backing glues, fire retardant, latex binder, fungicide, and antistatic and stain-resistant treatments. These can ‘outgas’ for weeks and years even after installation.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

A federal public health agency, part of the Department of Health & Human Services.  

Certified Organic

Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP)

The CLPPP was established for the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of lead poisoning, including the elimination of sources of poisoning through research and educational, epidemiologic, and clinical activities as may be necessary. CLPPP provides a range of both primary and secondary prevention services to children and their families and others with an interest in the prevention of lead poisoning.


A halogen element that is isolated as a heavy greenish-yellow diatomic gas of pungent odor and is used especially as a bleach, oxidizing agent, and disinfectant in water purification. Chlorine and compounds are environmentally damaging, break down slowly in the ecosystem, are stored in the fatty tissue of wildlife, and are a prime cause of atmospheric ozone loss. Chlorine is listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act as a hazardous air pollutant. Found in a wide range of household cleaners, including laundry bleaches, dishwasher detergents, and tub and tile cleaners.

Chronic Effect

An adverse effect on an organism in which symptoms recur frequently or develop slowly over a long period of time. The term “chronic” can also apply to exposure and toxicity. The term is usually applied to a condition spanning several weeks, months or years. 

Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction (CIPO)

A rare disorder of gastrointestinal motility where coordinated contractions (peristalsis) in the intestinal tract become altered and inefficient. When this happens, nutritional requirements cannot be adequately met.

Closed Loop

A type of manufacturing process that utilizes a cyclical material flow in order to minimize waste.

Community Water System

A public water system that serves year round community residents (at least 25 people or at least 15 service connections).


Possessing the ability to break down into, or otherwise become part of, usable compost.


A substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause adverse health effects. 


Presence of contaminants in the air, water or soil. 


A relationship that results when a change in one variable is consistently associated with change in another variable. 


A term used in life-cycle analysis to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its defined life.

Criteria Pollutants

EPA uses 6 “criteria pollutants” as indicators of air quality, and has established for each of them a maximum concentration above which adverse effects on human health may occur. The 6 pollutants are: Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Particulate Matter, Lead and Carbon Monoxide.

Cumulative Exposure

The sum of exposures of an organism to a chemical over a period of time

Detection Limit

The lowest concentration of a chemical that can reliably be distinguished form a zero concentration.


A  colorless liquid used mainly as a pesticide in farming many crops, including conventional cotton. It is in the process of being phased out in the European Union though for safety reasons.

Disease Rate

A measure of how frequently a disease occurs in a population.

Disinfection Byproducts

Disinfection byproducts or DBP’s result when disinfectants like chlorine combine with organic matter. Disinfectants are added to drinking water to kill or inactivate harmful organisms that cause various diseases. The most common DBP’s formed when chlorine is used are trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAS).


Diuron is widely used for vegetation control along rights of way. Other significant uses include weed control in citrus orchards and alfalfa fields and in the production of conventional cotton. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies diuron as a “known/likely” carcinogen because it has caused bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and breast cancer in studies with laboratory animals.


Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. 


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, ship or aircraft exhaust.

Electromagnetic Field (EMF’s)

Electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences that affect all populations. 


Air, water, soil, and food and the contaminants found within them.

Environmental Contaminant

A pollutant in the environment

Environmental Hazard

Any condition or situation in the environment which poses a threat.

Environmental Justice

The pursuit of equal and fair access to a healthy environmental; equal enforcement of environmental regulations; and a movement to protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental hazards. 

Environmental Management System (EMS)

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a set of processes and practices that enable an organization to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency. This site provides information and resources related to EMS for small businesses and private industry, as well as local, state and federal agencies.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

A federal environmental agency. Founded in 1970, EPA’s mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment-air, water and land upon which life depends.EPA provides leadership in the nation’s environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts. EPA works closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and Indian tribes to develop and enfoce regulations under existing environmental laws. EPA is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs and delegates to states and tribes responsible for issuing permits and monitoring and enforcing compliance. Where national standards are not met, EPA can issue sanctions and take other steps to assist the states and tribes in reaching the desired levels of environmental quality. The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide active partner in CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network intiative through the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Environmental Public Health Tracking Network

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in conjunction with grantee states, have developed a national Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network. The national network integrates and standardizes data and information from various monitoring and surveillance systems at the federal, state and local levels.


often used to connote a group whose members have been in contact with a supposed cause of a disease state or health state of interest.

Esophageal Dysmotility

Esophageal motility refers to contractions occurring in the esophagus, which propel the food bolus forward toward the stomach. When contractions in the esophagus become irregular, unsynchronized or absent, the patient is said to have esophageal dysmotility.

Exposed (exposed group)

A relationship that results when a change in one variable is consistently associated with change in another variable. 


contact of an organism with a chemical or physical agent at a specific concentration for a specific time period.

Exposure Assessment

A measurement or estimation of the magnitude, frequency, duration and route of exposure to a substance for a population of interest.

Fine Particulate Matter

A reference to particles <2.5 µm in diameter, also denoted as PM2.5

Fire Resistant

Defined as a material that is inherently resistant to catching fire (self-extinguishing) and does not melt or drip when exposed directly to extreme heat, e.g. wool. Wool fiber has a higher ignition threshold than many other fibers and is flame retardant up to 600º C. It also produces less toxic fumes in a fire.

Flame Retardant

Flame-retardant is a term most widely used in reference to chemicals that are used to treat fabrics as a protection against flammability. These chemicals are known to cause a variety of health issues for those exposed to the product. They are extremely toxic and bio-accumulative, meaning that they build up in your body and the environment causing serious harm. Some of the chemicals used in flame-retardants are known around the world as cancerous, and are even banned in some counties for this very reason.

Forrest Stewardship Council (FSC)

An international organization, the FSC brings groups together to find solutions which promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The standards set forth by the FSC represent the world’s strongest system for guiding forest management towards sustainable outcomes.


Irritating, allergy-producing, neurotoxin, and carcinogenic; can cause insomnia, coughing, headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, and skin rashes. Some of the most irritating and allergenic preservatives contain, release, or break down into formaldehyde.


The number of times an event occurs within a stated period of time.


Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine. When you have gastroparesis, your stomach muscles work poorly or not at all, and your stomach takes too long to empty its contents. Gastroparesis can delay digestion, which can lead to various symptoms and complications.

Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)

The Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) is the newly introduced standard for sustainable processing methods of latex products from organic raw materials. This mainly addresses the standards which need to be maintained with relevance to processing, manufacturing, packing, labeling, trading and distribution of latex products. In addition to the use of organic raw material, this standard also concentrates on aspects such as human health, safety and welfare, and environment in the manufacturing process of latex products.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognized as the leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers worldwide. The requirements are set to ensure the organic status of textiles, including harvesting of raw materials, environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, and labeling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.


An adjective used to describe something that is perceived to be beneficial to the environment. Green does not mean healthy and is not the same thing. 

Green Building

Buildings that use healthier, less polluting and more resource efficient practices.


A third-party product certification program based on proven emissions standards that provides specifying and procurement professionals with a resource for low-emitting products.

Greenhouse Gas

Certain gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone and several classes of halogenated carbons that contain fluorine, chlorine and bromine) that allow solar radiation to reach Earth’s surface and become absorbed, yet trap thermal radiation leaving the earth’s surface. 


Water beneath the earth’s surface in the spaces between soil particles and between rock surfaces

Health Outcome

A disease or health condition measured or observed in a population or an individual.

Heavy Metal

Any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic at low concentrations. Examples are mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, thallium and lead. Semi-metallic elements, such as antimony, arsenic, selenium and tellurium, are often included in this classification.

Human Carcinogen 

A compound for which sufficient evidence exists in epidemiological studies to support a causal association between exposure and cancer.

Incidence Rate

The frequency with which new cases of illness occur in a population over a specified period of time. This rate is computed as the number of new cases of a disease occurring in a period of time (numerator) divided by the size of the population at risk of becoming a case during that period of time (denominator). The result is often multiplied by a base number, such as 1,000 or 100,000, so that the resulting rate is the number of new cases of that disease per 100,000 people, which can then be compared.


A factor that identifies and communicates a system’s status. An environmental public health indicator (EPHI) provides information about a population’s health status with respect to environmental factors. It can be used to assess health or a factor associated with health (i.e., risk factor, intervention) in a specified population through direct or indirect measures.

Indoor Air Pollution

Air pollutants that occur within buildings or other enclosed spaces, as opposed to those occurring in outdoor or ambient air. Some examples of indoor air pollutants are nitrogen oxides, smoke, asbestos, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide.

Inhalable particles

All dust capable of entering the human respiratory tract.

Inspirable Particle

Diagnostic codes; developed and maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify diseases and signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury or disease. Usually referred to by version, as in ICD-9 or ICD-10. 

International Standards Organization (ISO)

A non-governmental organization located in Geneva, Switzerland, chartered to develop voluntary technical standards that aim to make the development, manufacture and supply of goods and services safer, cleaner and more efficient.

Intestinal Dysmotility

Intestinal dysmotility is the term used to describe a variety of symptoms that occur when the gut does not work properly at moving its contents (food, drink, tablets etc.) along. 

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

a toxic substance introduced into the environment, e.g. a pesticide.

Lead (elemental symbol Pb) 

 A metal formed in the earth’s crust, and can be found in all parts of our environment—water, air, and soil.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

A point-based rating system developed by The U.S. Green Building Council Rating System for Sustainable Development (USGBC) to assess new and existing commercial buildings for a variety of earth-friendly features.


Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant. It has a stiffer, more textured feel than cotton and is known for providing coolness and freshness in warm weather. It also has a soft brown natural tone, which adds subtle color while matching just about anything.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) 

An enforceable regulation that the EPA considers practically and feasibly attainable. In many cases, such as those regarding water systems, the MCL is equivalent to the MCLG (see below), because the EPA believes that the water system can provide this level of protection. For carcinogenic contaminants, however, the EPA realizes that it is most likely impossible to completely eliminate the contaminant and does not set an MCL at “zero.” Rather, the EPA sets a level that can be attained, given available technology and resources.

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG)

An MCLG indicates the ideal level of protection that can be provided against any adverse health effects that may be experienced after exposure to a given contaminant through drinking water.


A quantitative measurement indicating the magnitude of an indicator that can be used for comparison.


Well-defined surroundings such as the home, office, or kitchen that can be treated as uniform in terms of stressor (contaminant) concentration.

Mobile Source

A source of air pollution that moves, such as automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, off-road vehicles, boats and airplanes.


The occurrence of a disease or condition that alters health and quality of life; often measured as incidence or prevalence rates.


A fatal outcome; death.

Mortality Rate

The number of deaths in a specific population during a specific period of time divided by the size of the population during that period of time. The result is often multiplied by a base number, such as 1,000 or 100,000.

Multimedia Exposure 

Exposure to a toxic substance from multiple pathways such as air, water, soil, food, and breast milk.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Federal air quality standards. The EPA established National Ambient Air Quality standards for six “criteria” pollutants commonly found in outdoor air. EPA calls these pollutants “criteria” air pollutants because it regulates them by developing human health-based and/or environmentally-based criteria (science-based guidelines) for setting permissible levels. 

National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)

A federal environmental public health agency, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

A federal statistical agency for health data, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) 

A federal agency, part of the Department of Health & Human Services.

Natural Sources

Non-manmade emission sources, including biological and geological sources, wildfires, and windblown dust.


Compounds of nitrogen and oxygen. The major source is found in food but high levels of nitrates can be found in drinking water due to factors such as septic tanks and fertilizer run-off. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted into nitrites. High nitrate levels in drinking water can be a risk to infants. Nitrites can pose a risk to children and adults.

Nitric Oxide (NO)

A gas formed by combustion under high temperature and high pressure in an internal combustion engine; it is converted by sunlight and photochemical processes in ambient air to nitrogen oxide. NO is a precursor of ground-level ozone pollution, or smog.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

The result of nitric oxide combining with oxygen in the atmosphere; major component of photochemical smog.

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)

The result of photochemical reactions of nitric oxide in ambient air; major component of photochemical smog. Product of combustion from transportation and stationary sources and a major contributor to the formation of acid rain and ozone in the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxides may be harmful to the lungs and aggravate asthmatic symptoms.

Nonattainment area

A geographic area in which the level of a criteria air pollutant persistently exceeds the level allowed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Nonrenewable Energy

An energy source, such as oil or natural gas, or a natural resource, such as a metallic ore, that cannot be replenished or replaced after it has been used.

Non-Point Source

A diffuse air pollution source that is not recognized to have a single point of origin.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

A federal agency, part of the U.S. Department of Labor. Established to ensure safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. 


Pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton reduces this chemical use because it is grown without pesticides or chemical additives to fertilizer, relying instead on methods with less ecological impact.

Organic Linen

A natural fiber made from the flax plant and grown without pesticides or herbicides. Organic linen is one of the most ecological of natural fibers as no irrigation is necessary, the flax plant purifies the soil, and is biodegradable and recyclable.

Organic Trade Association

The Organic Trade Association is the membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. OTA represents businesses across the organic supply chain and addresses all things organic, including food, fiber/textiles, personal care products, and new sectors as they develop. Over sixty percent of OTA trade members are small businesses.

Organophosphate Compounds (OPS)

Organophosphate compounds were developed as chemical warfare agents. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 3 million acute severe incidents of pesticide poisoning every year.


A bluish gas that is harmful to breathe. Nearly 90% of the Earth’s ozone is in the stratosphere and is referred to as the ozone layer. Ozone absorbs a band of ultraviolet radiation called UVB that is particularly harmful to living organisms. The ozone layer prevents most UVB from reaching the ground.

Part per billion (ppb) 

A unit of measurement commonly used to express a contamination ratio, as in establishing the maximum permissible amount of a contaminant in water, land, or air.

Part per million (ppm)

A unit of measurement commonly used to express a contamination ratio, as in establishing the maximum permissible amount of a contaminant in water, land, or air.


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


Phthalates are a family of industrial chemicals that are used as plastic softeners or solvents in many different consumer items, including skin care products. They can be absorbed through the skin, ingested when they contaminate food or when children bite or suck on toys, or they can be inhaled as fumes. Organic ingredients can provide similar or even better levels of quality without incorporating possibly harmful phthalates.


Any of various organic compounds produced by polymerization, capable of being molded, extruded, cast into various shapes and films or drawn into filaments used as textile fibers.


Particulate Matter <10μm in diameter which deposit in upper (larger) air passages in the lungs. PM10 is one of the “criteria” pollutants regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.


Particulate Matter <2.5μm in diameter which deposit in lower (smaller) air passages in the lungs. PM2.5 is one of the “criteria” pollutants regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Point Source

A discrete object from which pollutants may be discharged (e.g. pipes, conduits, wells, smokestacks).

Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB’s)

PCBs are a group of man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms. The number of chlorine atoms and their location in a PCB molecule determine many of its physical and chemical properties. PCBs have no known taste or smell, and range in consistency from an oil to a waxy solid. PCBs belong to a broad family of man-made organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons.

PolyethylenTerephthalate (PET)

A thermoplastic material that is clear, tough and has good gas and moisture barrier properties.

Polylactic Acid

Synthetic thermoplastic polymer made from vinyl chloride. In addition to its stable physical properties, PVC has excellent transparency, chemical resistance, long-term stability, good weatherability, flow characteristics and stable electrical properties. However, its stability makes it nearly environmentally indestructible.

Possible Human Carcinogen

A compound for which there exists limited evidence from animal studies and inadequate or no data in humans to support a causal association between exposure and cancer.


An adjective used to describe all or part of a consumer product that has reached the end of its useful life in that form.

Post-Consumer material

A material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item.

Post-Consumer Recycling

The recycling of materials generated from residential and consumer waste for use in new or similar purposes

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

POTS is a type of dysautonomia. POTS can cause lightheadness, fainting, tachycardia, chest pains, shortness of breath, GI upset, shaking, exercise intolerance, temperature sensitivity and more.  POTS predominantly impacts young women who look healthy on the outside, researchers compare the disability seen in POTS to the disability seen in conditions like COPD and congestive heart failure.


 The proportion of a defined population affected by a disease at a specified point in time. The numerator of the proportion comprises all those who have the disease at that instant, regardless of whether it was diagnosed recently or long ago.

Prevalence Rate 

 The percent of the population with a particular condition or characteristic. It is calculated as the number of people in a population who have a health condition divided by the total number of people in the population.

Primary standard 

A pollution limit set by the EPA for a criteria pollutant and based on health effects.

Probable Human Carcinogen

A compound for which there exists limited evidence in epidemiological studies and/or sufficient evidence from animal studies to support a causal association between exposure and cancer.

Public Water Systems

Provide piped water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or regularly serve 25 individuals. Community water systems are one kind of public system. All public water systems are subject to government regulation for contaminants.

Rare Disease

In the United States, a rare disease is defined as a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the US. 


A measure of new events or occurrences in a population. The crude rate is calculated as the number of events per time period divided by the total number of people in the population in the same time period. The crude rate represents the actual burden of disease in the population.


The action or process of converting waste into reusable material.

Recycled Cotton

Cotton fabric which has been made from recovered cotton that would otherwise be cast off during the spinning, weaving or cutting process.

Respirable Particle

A particle <5 micrometers in size that can be deposited into the pulmonary region of the respiratory tract.

Renewable Energy

Energy derived from sources that do not become depleted such as the sun, wind, oceans, rivers, eligible biomass and heat from the earth’s interior.


Capable of being used again after salvaging or special treatment or processing.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

A federal law in the United States that covers drinking water for the public.

Secondary standard 

A pollution limit set by the EPA for a criteria pollutant and based on environmental effects such as damage to property, plants, visibility, etc.

Sick Building Syndrome

A situation in which the occupants of a building experience acute health- or comfort-related effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building.

Small Fiber Neuropathy

A condition characterized by severe pain attacks that typically begin in the feet or hands. 


A mixture of air pollutants which includes particulates, nitrogen oxides, ozone, etc. Smog often has a brown haze due to the presence of nitrogen dioxide.


Created when air combines with the airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases that are emitted when a material undergoes combustion.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate (also sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laurel sulfate, and sodium dodecyl sulfate): Skin irritant. Reported as toxic in many studies. Has tendency to react with other ingredients to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. 

Stationary Source

A non-mobile source (e.g. power plant, refinery, manufacturing facility) that emits air pollutants.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies styrene as a potential human carcinogen. It is also known as vinyl benzene, ethenylbenzene, cinnamene, or phenyl ethylene.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

A pungent, colorless, gas formed primarily by the combustion of fossil fuels; becomes a pollutant when present in large amounts. Sulfur dioxide is one of the six criteria pollutants regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.


A method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Sustainable Product

A product that has no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources, due to such factors as the method of harvesting or the use of the resource in such a way that it is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Sustainable Manufacturing

Manufacturing processes that have no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources.


Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.


The ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data (e.g., regarding agent/hazard, risk factor, exposure, health event) essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice, closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those responsible for prevention and control.

Synthetic Backing

Fabric backing not made from natural materials.

Systemic Toxicant

Affects the entire body or many organs rather than a specific site.

Tog Value

Carpets and carpet pads resist the transfer of heat to a lesser or greater degree. This “thermal resistance value” can be measured as a “tog” value.

Toluene and Xylene

Highly toxic petrochemical solvents; eye and skin irritant; carcinogenic; neuro-toxic and reproductive effects. Found in spot removers, car cleaners, and paints and finishes.

Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)

EPA’s list of more than 600 designated chemicals that threaten health and the environment. Authorized under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, this system requires manufacturers to report releases of these chemicals to EPA and State governments. EPA compiles the data in an online, publicly accessible national computerized database.


a toxic substance introduced into the environment, e.g. a pesticide.

Toxic Agent

Anything that can produce an adverse biological effect. It may be chemical, physical, or biological in form. 


The degree to which a substance is able to harm a living organism.

Toxic Substance

A material that has toxic properties.  It may be a discrete toxic chemical or a mixture of toxic chemicals


Peptides or proteins produced by living organisms. Venoms are toxins injected by a bite or sting.

Trihalomethanes (THMs)

A family of disinfection byproducts formed when disinfectants such as chlorine, used to control disease-causing contaminants in drinking water, react with naturally occurring organic matter in the source water. The primary trihalomethanes of concern are chloroform, dibromochloromethane, bromodichloromethane, and bromoform.

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

The total amount of trihalomethanes allowed by the EPA.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Water Contaminant 

A potentially harmful substance that is present in water, resulting from either a biological process or from point source or non-point source pollution.

U.S. Green Building Council

A coalition of representatives from the building industry that promotes buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and are healthful places to live and work.


The WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) credential denotes expertise in the WELL Building Standard  and a commitment to advancing human health and wellness in buildings and communities around the world.

WELL Building Standard

A performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

WELL is managed and administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment.


Curly hair on sheep and other animals that can be used as a renewable resource to create items.

World Fair Trade Organization

The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) is a global network of organizations representing the Fair Trade supply chain. WFTO is the home of fair traders: producers, marketers, exporters, importers, wholesalers and retailers that demonstrate 100% commitment to Fair Trade and apply the 10 WFTO Principles of Fair Trade to their supply chain. 

World Health Organization (WHO)

World Health Organization (WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.


Glossary definitions were compiled from numerous state and federal agencies including: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state EPHT partners, CA SHAD, U.S. EPA, U.S. Census Bureau and NJDOH resources.

Bureau, US Census.,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

“Data Catalog.”,

“Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,

EPA, Environmental Protection Agency,

“Healthy New Jersey.” The Official Web Site for The State of New Jersey,


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