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What's That Word?

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Allergens - proteins that come from cockroaches, mold, pets, and dust mites (tiny bug-like creatures that live in dust). Allergens cause allergies.

Allergy - a sensitivity to things that are usually not harmful, such as certain foods or pollen. Allergies can make you sniffle, sneeze, have runny and itchy eyes, and other cold-like symptoms.

Aquifer - an underground layer of gravel, soil, or sand that is full of water.

Asthma - a lung disorder that affects airways, the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When the airways are inflamed, a person may wheeze, feel short of breath, cough, and feel tightness in the chest.

Atmosphere - the layer of air around the Earth. Air contains nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases like carbon dioxide, water vapor and ozone.



Barometer - An instrument that measures the air pressure of the atmosphere. Differences in air pressure are responsible for wind and weather patterns.

Bioethics - the study of “right and wrong” in biology research.

Biomarker - a biological marker. A key event in the cells or body chemistry that links an environmental exposure to an effect on health.



Cancer - when cells that are not normal develop and multiply. There are at least 200 different kinds of cancers, which can grow in almost any organ of the body.

Carbon dioxide - a colorless, odorless greenhouse gas. It is produced naturally when dead animals or plants decay, and it is used by plants during photosynthesis. Animals exhale some carbon dioxide with every breath.

Carcinogen - something that can cause cancer. Cigarette smoke is a carcinogen.

Cell - the basic unit of living things. Cells are the building blocks of animals, plants, and bacteria.

Climate -  the average weather.  It includes things like temperature, rain and snow amounts, and wind speed.  

Climate change -  major changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns lasting for many years. Climate changes can be caused by natural factors or by human activities.

Clinical research - scientific research that directly involves people.

Cloning - creating something genetically identical to something else.

Contaminant - something unhealthy.

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) - lights with a coiled tube instead of the round bulb you see in old-style light bulbs (incandescent bulbs).  They are like the long fluorescent light tubes you see in ceiling lights, but shrunk down and coiled up so they can replace incandescent bulbs.



Data - a collection of facts, numbers, or other pieces of information.

DNA - a long molecule made of two twisting, paired strands. DNA contains instructions for everything our cells do throughout our lives.

Dust mites - tiny bug-like creatures that live in dust.



Endocrine system - glands in the body that make hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers in the body.

Environmental justice - the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Environment - everything around us.

Environmental health sciences - studying how the environment affects health and disease.

Epidemic - a disease affecting a lot of people at one time or in one place.

Epidemiology - a branch of medicine that deals with the study of epidemic diseases. Epidemics usually affect a lot of people at one time or in one place. So epidemiology can include studying groups of people who have been exposed to something in the environment (like pesticides, or ozone) to see if they have been affected by this exposure.

Epigenetics - the study of how the environment affects how our genes work.

Experiment - doing tests to find out if an idea is true or not. Scientists use experiments to find out about the world around us.  

Exposure - coming into physical contact with something; being subjected to risk from a harmful action or condition

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First responder - anyone with a duty to be first on the scene in an emergency. This includes firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), police officers, and other emergency workers.



Genome - all the DNA combined; your complete genetic inheritance.

Genomics - Instead of looking at one gene at a time, isolated from the environment, genomics looks at many genes, how they interact with each other and how they are affected by their environment.

Grant - money given by a government, business, or group for a specific purpose.

Greenhouse gas - natural or manmade gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.



Habitat - the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally lives and grows.



Incandescent light bulb - the most common type of light bulb, which produces light when electricity heats a thin metal wire.



Journal - a newspaper or magazine on one subject; for example, a scientific journal is a magazine about science.



Lead - a heavy metal found in small amounts in the earth’s crust.  Lead is also a poison.

LED - LED stands for light-emitting diode. LEDs produce light from the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material. Compared to incandescent light bulbs, LEDs use less energy, last a lot longer, are smaller, and are more reliable.



Mercury -  a metal that is a shiny, silver-white liquid. It is also known as quicksilver. It is a poison. Mercury is commonly used in thermometers, barometers and fluorescent light bulbs.



Nanomaterial - materials less than about 100 nanometers wide. A nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter. That’s about 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Nanotechnology - using nanomaterials (things that are less than about 100 nanometers wide). There is no single type of nanomaterial. Things this small act in some really special and different ways.



Obesity - too much body fat. Unhealthy body weight.

Ozone - a gas made up of three atoms of oxygen bonded together. High in the atmosphere, ozone naturally shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun. Closer to the Earth’s surface, ozone is a pollutant that is formed by other pollutants that react with each other. Ozone is also a greenhouse gas.

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Pandemic - when a disease is spread from person to person throughout the world.

Pandemic flu - occurs when a new flu virus spreads easily and very quickly, making a lot of people throughout the world sick.

Pathology - the scientific study of the causes and effects of disease.

Pollution - when the environment is not clean. There are lots of kinds of pollution: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, even noise pollution. Pollution can come from nature or be man-made.

Population - all the people that live in an area; or all the animals of one kind that live in an area.

Precipitation - rain, hail, mist, sleet, snow, or any other moisture that falls to the Earth.

Public health - the science of preventing disease and improving health for everyone. Scientists and doctors work together to make our world a healthier place.



Recyclable - something that can be reused to make new products. Plastic, paper, glass, steel and aluminum cans, and used oil are examples of recyclable materials.

Recycling - remaking materials into either the same product or new products, rather than to just toss them in the trash.



Toxic - poisonous.

Toxicology - the study of poisons; which chemicals are poisons (toxic), how to prevent poisoning, and how to treat poisoning.  

Translational research - Scientific discoveries in the laboratory are used by other scientists to find ways to improve the health of people. This is called "translation" of research, which is different from using a word in one language for a word with the same meaning in another language.



Vermiculture - raising worms.

Vermicomposting - using worms to turn our old food (garbage) into plant food.



Waste - anything discarded or thrown away.

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