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Science Terms Definitions - A

Abatement - The reduction in degree or intensity of pollution.

Absorbed Dose - The energy imparted to a unit mass of matter by ionizing radiation. The unit of absorbed dose is the rad or gray. One rad equals 100 ergs per gram. The amount of a substance absorbed into the body, usually per unit of time. The most common unit of dose is mg per kg body weight per day (mg/kg-day).

Absorption - The penetration of one substance into or through another. Specifically, the penetration of a substance into the body from the skin, lungs, or digestive tract.

Acceptable Daily Intake - An estimate of the daily exposure dose that is likely to be without deleterious effect even if continued exposure occurs over a lifetime.

Accuracy - The degree of agreement between a measured value and the true value; usually expressed as +/- percent of full scale.

ACGIH - American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists; an organization of professional personnel in governmental agencies or educational institutions engaged in occupational safety and health programs. ACGIH develops and publishes recommended occupational exposure limits (see TLV) for hundreds of chemical substances and physical agents.

ACRS - Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards.

Action Levels - Regulatory levels recommended by EPA for enforcement by Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture when pesticide residues occur in food or feed commodities for reasons other than the direct application of the pesticide. As opposed to "tolerances" which are established for residues occurring as a direct result of proper usage, action levels are set for inadvertent residues resulting from previous legal use or accidental contamination. In the Superfund program, the existence of a contaminant concentration in the environment high enough to warrant action or trigger a response under SARA and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan. The term is also used in other regulatory programs.

Activated Carbon - A highly adsorbent form of carbon used to remove odors and toxic substances from liquid or gaseous emissions. In waste treatment it is used to remove dissolved organic matter from waste water. It is also used in motor vehicle evaporative control systems.

Activated Sludge - Product that results when primary effluent is mixed with bacteria-laden sludge and then agitated and aerated to promote biological treatment, speeding the breakdown of organic matter in raw sewage undergoing secondary waste treatment.

Activator - A chemical added to a pesticide to increase its activity.

Acute - Diseases or responses with short and generally severe course (often due to high pollutant concentrations).

Acute Exposure - A single exposure to a toxic substance which results in severe biological harm or death. Acute exposures are usually characterized as lasting no longer than a day, as compared to longer, continuing exposure over a period of time.

Acute Toxicity - Any poisonous effect produced within a short period of time following exposure, usually up to 24-96 hours, resulting in biological harm and often death.

Added Risk - The difference between the cancer incidence under the exposure condition and the background incidence in the absence of exposure.

Administrative Order - The difference between the cancer incidence under the exposure condition and the background incidence in the absence of exposure.

Administrative Order On Consent - A legal agreement signed by EPA and an individual, business, or other entity through which the violator agrees to pay for correction of violations, take the required corrective or cleanup actions, or refrain from an activity. It describes the actions to be taken, may be subject to a comment period, applies to civil actions, and can be enforced in court.

Administrative Procedures Act - A law that spells out procedures and requirements related to the promulgation of regulations.

Administrative Record - All documents which EPA considered or relied on in selecting the response action at a Superfund site, culminating in the record of decision for remedial action or, an action memorandum for removal actions.

Adsorption - retention of a substance by soil particles.

AEC - Atomic Energy Commission, 1947-1974. Broken up in 1974 into the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). ERDA later became the Department of Energy (DOE).

Aerobic - Life or processes that require, or are not destroyed by, the presence of oxygen.

Aerobic Treatment - Process by which microbes decompose complex organic compounds in the presence of oxygen and use the liberated energy for reproduction and growth. (Such processes include extended aeration, trickling filtration, and rotating biological contactors.)

Air Emissions - The release or discharge of a pollutant (from a stationary source) into the ambient air. For anthropogenic sources this may involve release (1) by means of a stack or (2) as a fugitive dust, mist or vapor as a result inherent to the manufacturing or formulating process. Pollutants may also be discharged from mobile sources, from area sources such as roads and fields, and from non-manufacturing, stationary sources.

Air Pollution - The presence in the outdoor atmosphere of any dust, fumes, mist, smoke, other particulate matter, vapor, gas, odorous substances, or a combination thereof, in sufficient quantities and of such characteristics and duration as to be, or likely to be, injurious to health or welfare, animal or plant life, or property, or as to interfere with the enjoyment of life or property.

Air Quality Control Region - Federally designated area that is required to meet and maintain federal ambient air quality standards. May include nearby locations in the same state or nearby states that share common air pollution problems.

Air Quality Criteria - The levels of pollution and lengths of exposure above which adverse effects may occur on health and welfare.

Air Quality Standards - The level of pollutants prescribed by law or regulation that cannot be exceeded during a specified time in a defined area.

Airborne Particulates - Total suspended particulate matter found in the atmosphere as solid particles or liquid droplets. Chemical composition of particulates varies widely, depending on location and time of year. Airborne particulates include: windblown dust, emissions from industrial processes, smoke from the burning of wood and coal, and motor vehicle or non-road engine exhausts.

ALARA - Acronym for "As Low As Reasonably Achievable," means making every reasonable effort to maintain exposures to ionizing radiation as far below the dose limits as practical, consistent with the purpose for which the licensed activity is undertaken, taking into account the state of technology, the economics of improvements in relation to state of technology, the economics of improvements in relation to benefits to the public health and safety, and other societal and socioeconomic considerations, and in relation to utilization of nuclear energy and licensed materials in the public interest. (see 10 CFR 20.1003).

Alpha Decay - The emission of a nucleus of a helium atom from the nucleus of an element, generally of a heavy element, in the process of its radioactive decay.

Alpha Particle - The nuclei of a helium atom (with two neutrons and two protons each) that are discharged by radioactive decay of many heavy elements, such as uranium-238 and plutonium-239.

Alpha Radiation - Radiation consisting of helium nuclei (atomic wt. 4, atomic number 2) that are discharged by radioactive disintegration of some heavy elements, including uranium-238, radium-226, and plutonium-239.

Alternative Technology - Approach that aims to use resources efficiently or to substitute resources in order to do minimum damage to the environment. This approach permits a large degree of personal user control over the technology.

Anaerobic - A life or process that occurs in, or is not destroyed by, the absence of oxygen.

Annual Limit on Intake (ALI) - The derived limit for the amount of radioactive material taken into the body of an adult worker by inhalation or ingestion in a year. ALI is the smaller value of intake of a given radionuclide in a year by the reference man (mannequin used to determine dose) that would result in a committed effective dose equivalent of 5 rems(0.05 sievert) or a committed dose equivalent of 50 rems (0.5 sievert) to any individual organ or tissue. (see 10 CFR 20.1003.)

Antagonism - Interference or inhibition of the effect of one chemical by the action of another.

Anthropogenic - Of human origin.

Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements (ARARs) - Any state or federal statute that pertains to protection of human life and the environment in addressing specific conditions or use of a particular cleanup technology at a Superfund site.

Aquifer - An underground bed or layer of earth, gravel, or porous stone that contains water.

Artesian (Flowing) Aquifer - Aquifer in which water is held under pressure by confining layers, forcing water to rise in wells above the top of the aquifer.

Asbestos - A mineral fiber that can pollute air or water and cause cancer or asbestosis when inhaled. EPA has banned or severely restricted its use in manufacturing and construction.

Asbestos Abatement - Procedures to control fiber release from asbestos-containing materials in a building or to remove them entirely, including removal, encapsulation, repair, enclosure, encasement, and operations and maintenance programs.

Asbestos-Containing Waste Materials (ACWM) - Mill tailings or any waste that contains commercial asbestos and is generated by a source covered by the Clean Air Act Asbestos NESHAPS.

Asbestosis - A disease associated with inhalation of asbestos fibers. The disease makes breathing progressively more difficult and can be fatal.

Atom - The smallest particle of an element that cannot be divided or broken up by chemical means. It consists of a central core of protons and neutrons, called the nucleus. Electrons revolve in orbits in the region surrounding the nucleus.

Atomic Energy - Energy released in nuclear reactions. Of particular interest is the energy released when a neutron initiates the breaking up or fissioning of an atom's nucleus into smaller pieces (fission), or when two nuclei are joined together under millions of degrees of heat (fusion). It is more correctly called nuclear energy.

Atomic Number (symbolized Z) - The number of protons in a nucleus. It determines the chemical properties of an element.

Atomic Weight - The nominal atomic weight of an isotope is given by the sum of the number of neutrons and protons in each nucleus. The exact atomic weight differs fractionally from that whole number, because neutrons are slightly heavier than protons and the mass of the nucleus is also affected by the binding energy.

Attenuation - The process by which a compound is reduced in concentration over time, through absorption, adsorption, degradation, dilution, and/or transformation.

Attributable Risk - The rate of a disease in exposed individuals that can be attributed to the exposure. This measure is derived by subtracting the rate (usually incidence or mortality) of the disease among non-exposed persons from the corresponding rate among exposed individuals.

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