If global changes caused by habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, overpopulation, and overharvesting (HIPPO) are not abated, half the species of plants and animals could be extinct or at least about to become extinct by the end of the century. We are needlessly turning the gold we inherited from our forebears into straw, and for that we will be despised by our descendants
— Edward O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth

Environmental Risks: health hazards at home, in the work place, or in nature (e.g., infectious agents, irritants, respiratory fibrotic agents, asphyxiants, allergens, metabolic poisons, physical agents, “mutagens,” “teratogens,” and “carcinogens.” (NCIt)

'Stratospheric' "ozone depletion" and "global warming" have always been considered almost completely separate phenomena, but in 2012 scientists discovered that global warming is producing an unexpected and unwelcome threat to the stratospheric ozone layer — this time above highly populated areas in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere. (Gore, 310) The evidence for climate warming, with industrial pollution as the principal cause, is now overwhelming. Also evident upon even casual inspection is the rapid disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands and other habitats where most of the diversity of life exists. (Wilson, 294) Multiple threats to expand (world) food supplies include: the erosion of fertile topsoil at unsustainable rates; loss of soil fertility; increasing desertification of grasslands; increasing competition for agricultural water from cities and industry; increasing resistance of pests, weeds, and plant disease to pesticides, herbicides, and other agricultural chemicals; the looming impact of catastrophic heat stress on important food crops; diversion of more cropland from food crops to crops suitable for biofuel; and conversion of cropland to urban and suburban sprawl. (Gore, 149) Also referred to as ‘environmental risk factors.’


Air Pollution: the presence of contaminants or pollutant substances in the air (air pollutants) that interfere with human health or welfare, or produce other harmful environmental effects. The substances may include gases; particulate matter; or volatile “organic” chemicals. (MeSH) Gaseous or particulate matter in the air that is not a normal constituent of air or not normally present in such large amounts. It may be the result of human activity, such as ‘sulphur dioxide’ from burning of coal, and “carbon monoxide” and “nitrogen” “oxides” from exhaust emissions. Can result from desert dust, methane, and hydrogen sulphide from microbial activity in bogs and volcanic debris in the atmosphere. (Lawrence)

Allergens: substances that causes an allergic response. Examples include pollen, molds, and certain foods. (NCI1) Many are particles small enough to be carried in the air and enter a person’s respiratory tract. (Lewis, 337) Pollens, fur, feathers, mold, and dust may cause ‘hay fever’ (and other “allergies”). House-dust mites have been implicated in some forms of “asthma.” Drugs, dyes, cosmetics, and a host of other chemicals may cause rashes and ‘dermatitis.’ (OxfordMed)

Biofouling: process by which unwanted microbial, plant or animal materials or organisms accumulate on man-made surfaces. (MeSH)

Carcinogens: substances that causes cancer. (NCI1) Agents that increase the likelihood of developing cancer. (Booker, 288) An agent with the capacity to cause cancer in humans. Carcinogens may be natural, such as 'aflatoxin,' which is produced by a "fungus" and sometimes found on stored grains, or manmade, such as ‘asbestos’ or tobacco smoke. Carcinogens work by interacting with a cell's DNA and inducing genetic "mutations." (NCGRI)

Environmental Tobacco Smoke: smoke that comes from the burning of a tobacco product and smoke that is exhaled by smokers. Inhaling environmental tobacco smoke is called ‘involuntary smoking’ or ‘passive smoking.’ (NCI1) Environmental tobacco smoke consists of a huge variety of chemicals that are produced during the burning of tobacco. Among them are known or suspected (toxins), carcinogens and “respiratory irritants,” including “nicotine,” “ammonia,” ‘formaldehyde,’  ‘sulfur dioxide,’ ‘hydrogen cyanide,’ ‘phenol,’  ‘nitrogen oxide,’  ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,’  ’N-Nitrosamines’ and ‘radionuclides.’ Environmental tobacco smoke has numerous adverse health effects, is “mutagenic” and is a known human carcinogen that is associated with an increased risk of developing “lung cancer.” (NCI05) Also referred to as ‘ETS’ and ‘secondhand smoke.’

Climate Change: any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). It may result from natural factors such as changes in the sun's intensity, natural processes within the climate system such as changes in ocean circulation, or human activities. (MeSH)

Global Warming: increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface and in the ‘troposphere,’ which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. (MeSH)

Droughts: prolonged dry periods in the natural climate cycle. They are slow-onset phenomena caused by rainfall deficit combined with other predisposing factors. (MeSH)

Extreme Heat: high temperature weather exceeding the average and of several weeks duration. Extreme heat is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people. (MeSH)

Floods: sudden onset water phenomena with different speeds of occurrence. These include flash floods, seasonal river floods, and coastal floods, associated with 'cyclonic' storms; tidal waves; and storm surges. (MeSH)

Greenhouse Effect: the trapping of a portion of the heat radiated from the Earth’s surface by water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and other compounds in the lower atmosphere, and its re-radiation back to the surface. If the levels of carbon dioxide, etc., in the atmosphere continue to increase… it is thought that this natural effect will result in a continuing rise in temperature of the lower atmosphere, eventually leading to widespread alternation in climates throughout the world and melting of polar ice. (Lawrence) The effect of global warming and the resulting increase in world temperatures. The predicted health effects of such long-term climatic change include increased incidence of respiratory, water-borne, and vector-borne diseases. (MeSH)

Environmental Disorders: (those) caused by external forces rather than by physiologic “dysfunction” or by “pathogens.” (MeSH) (Caused by) exposure to potentially harmful chemical, physical or biological agents via the environment. (NCIt)

Radiation Sickness: illness and symptoms resulting from excessive exposure to “ionizing radiation.” Results when humans (or other animals) are exposed to... large doses of ionizing radiation. Radiation exposure can occur as a single large exposure (acute), or a series of small exposures spread over time (chronic). Exposure may be accidental or intentional (as in radiation therapy). Generally associated with acute exposure and has a characteristic set of symptoms that appear in an orderly fashion. Chronic exposure is usually associated with delayed medical problems such as cancer and premature aging. The risk of cancer depends on the dose and begins to build up even with very low doses. There is no ‘minimum threshold.’ (PubMedHealth2) Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, bleeding, hair loss, swelling, itching, redness, and other skin problems. Large doses of radiation may cause death. (NCI1)

Food Contamination: the presence in food of harmful, unpalatable, or otherwise objectionable foreign substances, e.g. chemicals, microorganisms or diluents, before, during, or after processing or storage. (MeSH)

Injury: hurt or loss caused to or sustained by a person or thing; harm, detriment; damage, especially to the body. (Oxford) Damage inflicted on the body as the direct or indirect result of an external force, with or without disruption of structural continuity. (NCIt)

Trauma: physical injury caused by an external force, or psychological injury caused by an emotional event. An event that is capable of causing either a physical or psychological injury. (Cardwell, 255) Adjective - 'traumatic.'

Mutagens: anything that causes a mutation. DNA changes caused by mutagens may harm cells and cause certain diseases, such as cancer. (NCI1) A chemical agent that increases the rate of genetic mutation by interfering with the function of nucleic acids. (MeSH) A chemical or physical phenomenon that promotes errors in “DNA replication.” (NHGRI) Includes "ultraviolet radiation," “x-rays” and a wide range of organic chemicals. (Indge, 117) Adjective - ‘mutagenic.’

Ozone Depletion: a shift in the balance between production and destruction of stratospheric ‘ozone’ that results in a decline of the amount of ozone in the lower stratosphere. (MeSH)

Radiation: energy traveling through space in the form of “photons.” (Chapple, 196) Energy that emanates from a source in the form of waves or particles. (Dunlop, 458) Heat movement through space. Heat energy originating on a hot body like the sun, traveling from place to place through the air. (Olwell, 2/1/10) The movement of heat as “infrared” energy. (Hall, 8/19/09) Energy released in the form of particle or electromagnetic waves. Common sources of radiation include ‘radon’ gas, ‘cosmic rays’ from outer space, medical x-rays, and energy given off by a “radioisotope.” (NCI1) Natural sources of radiation account for 81% of our radiation exposure. They include cosmic rays, sunlight, and radioactive minerals. (Lewis, 219) Radiation crosses empty space without heating the space or air. (Saturn, Basic Building Sciencee)

Ionizing Radiation: radiation that produces immediate chemical effects on human tissue. X-rays, gamma rays, and ‘particle bombardment,’ give off ionizing radiation. Can be used for medical testing and treatment, industrial and manufacturing purposes, weapons and weapons development, and more. (PubMedHealth2) At high doses, ionizing radiation increases chemical activity inside cells and can lead to health risks, including cancer. (NCI1) Potentially “mutagenic radiation.” Breaks the sugar-phosphate backbone. (Lewis, 219)

Gamma Rays: high-energy radiation that is different from an x-ray. (NCI1) These can penetrate the body, damaging tissues. ‘Plutonium’ and ‘cesium’ isotopes used in weapons emit gamma rays. This form of radiation is used to kill cancer cells. (Lewis, 219) Penetrating, high-energy electromagnetic radiation emitted from atomic nuclei during nuclear decay. The range of wavelengths of emitted radiation overlaps the shorter, more energetic x-rays wavelengths. The distinction between gamma rays and x-rays is based on their radiation source. (MeSH)

X-Rays: penetrating electromagnetic radiation emitted when the inner orbital "electrons" of an "atom" are excited and release radiant energy. (MeSH) A type of radiation used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases. In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer. (NCI1) The major source of exposure to human-made radiation. They have less energy and do not penetrate the body to the extent that gamma rays do. (Lewis, 219) X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light. An ‘x-ray machine’ sends individual x-ray particles through the body. The images are recorded on a computer or film. Structures that are dense (such as bone) will block most of the x-ray particles, and will appear white. Metal and 'contrast media' (special dye used to highlight areas of the body) will also appear white. Structures containing air will be black, and muscle, fat, and fluid will appear as shades of gray. (PubMedHealth2)

Nonionizing Radiation: light, radio waves, microwaves, and radar. This kind of radiation usually does not cause “tissue” damage. (PubMedHealth2) Electromagnetic radiation which does not produce “ions” in matter through which it passes. The wavelengths are generally longer than those of far ultraviolet radiation and range through the longest radio waves. (MeSH)

Mineral Radiation: sourced from radioactive minerals (found) in the earth’s crust, such as radon. 'Uranium' and 'radium' emit alpha radiation. (Lewis, 219)

Ultraviolet Radiation (UV): comes from the sun. Volcanoes, comets, meteorites, supernovas, and man depleted ozone in the atmosphere. (This) allowed ultraviolet wavelengths of light to reach organisms. (Lewis, 228) Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth's surface is made up of two types of rays, called “UVA” and “UVB.” Ultraviolet radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. It can cause skin damage, premature aging, “melanoma,” and other types of “skin cancer.” It can also cause problems with the eyes and the “immune system.” Skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that protect the skin from both kinds of ultraviolet radiation. In medicine, ultraviolet radiation also comes from special lamps or a laser and is used to treat certain skin conditions. (NCI1) The portion of the electromagnetic spectrum immediately below the visible range and extending into the x-ray frequencies. (MeSH) Also referred to as ‘UV radiation,’  ‘ultraviolet rays,’ and ‘ultraviolet light.’

UVA: shorter wavelength ultraviolet radiation. Not dangerous to DNA. (Lewis, 228) Ultraviolet A radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. Ultraviolet A radiation may cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. It may also cause problems with the eyes and the immune system. (NCI1)

UVB: longer wavelength ultraviolet radiation. Damages DNA by forming an extra covalent bond between same-strand “pyrimidines,” particularly “thymines.” (Lewis, 228) Ultraviolet B radiation causes sunburn, darkening and thickening of the outer layer of the skin, and melanoma and other types of skin cancer. It may also cause problems with the eyes and the immune system. (NCI1)

Teratogens: harmful agents or substances that can cause abnormal development or birth defects. Known teratogens include: exposure to radiation; toxic chemicals and metals, such as mercury, PCBs, and lead; "viruses" and "bacteria," such as "German measles," 'syphilis,'  and "HIV," and drugs taken by the mother, such as "alcohol," "cocaine," ("nicotine"), and "heroin." (Hockenbury, 356)

Toxins: poisons made by certain bacteria, plants, or animals, including insects. (NCI1) Toxins also include medications that are helpful in small doses but poisonous when used in an large amounts. Most toxins that cause problems in humans are released by germs such as bacteria. For example, “cholera” is due to a bacterial toxin. (PubMedHealth2)

Toxic: having to do with poison or something harmful to the body. Toxic substances usually cause unwanted side effects. (NCI1)