Endicott Area Investigations - Public Health Response Plan

Appendix A: Glossary

Adverse health effect
A change in body function or cell structure that might lead to disease or health problems.
Surrounding (for example, ambient air).
An underground source of water. This water may be contained in a layer of rock, sand or gravel.
Background level
An average or expected amount of a substance or radioactive material in a specific environment, or typical amounts of substances that occur naturally in an environment.
Any one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and grow or multiply out of control.
Case control study
A study in which people with a disease (cases) are compared to people without the disease (controls) to see if past exposure to chemicals or other risk factors were different.
Cluster investigation
A review of an unusual number, real or perceived, of health events (for example, reports of cancer) grouped together in time and location. Cluster investigations are designed to confirm case reports; determine whether they represent an unusual disease occurrence; and, if possible, explore possible causes and contributing environmental factors.
Completed exposure pathway
[See "exposure pathway."]
A substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that are unusual.
Referring to the skin. For example, dermal absorption means passing through the skin.
Dermal contact
Contact with (touching) the skin. [See "route of exposure."]
Descriptive epidemiologic study
A study of the distribution of disease frequency in human populations, often based on routinely available data and case reports.
Environmental media
Soil, water, air, biota (plants and animals), or any other parts of the environment.
Environmental media and transport mechanism
Environmental media include water, air, soil, and biota (plants and animals). Transport mechanisms move contaminants from the source to points where exposure can occur. The environmental media and transport mechanism is the second part of an exposure pathway.
United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The study of the occurrence and causes of health effects in human populations. An epidemiological study often compares two groups of people who are alike except for one factor, such as exposure to a chemical or the presence of a health effect. The investigators try to determine if the factor is associated with the health effect.
Contact with a substance by swallowing, breathing, or touching the skin or eyes. Exposure may be short-term (acute), of intermediate duration, or long-term (chronic).
Exposure assessment
A process that estimates the amount of a chemical that enters or comes into contact with people or animals. An exposure assessment also describes how often and for how long an exposure occurred, and the nature and size of a population exposed to a chemical.
Exposure investigation
The collection and analysis of site-specific information and biologic tests (when appropriate) to determine whether people have been exposed to substances.
Exposure pathway
The route a substance takes from its source (where it began) to its end point (where it ends), and how people or other organisms can come into contact with (or get exposed to) it. An exposure pathway has five parts: a source of contamination (such as an abandoned business); an environmental media and transport mechanism (such as movement through groundwater); a point of exposure (such as a private well); a route of exposure (eating, drinking, breathing, or touching), and a receptor population (people or other organisms potentially or actually exposed). When all five parts are present, the exposure pathway is termed a "completed exposure pathway." In a "potential exposure pathway," one or more pathway elements are missing and/or are uncertain indicating that exposure to a contaminant could have occurred in the past, could be occurring, or could occur in the future.
Water beneath the earth's surface in the spaces between soil particles and between rock surfaces. [See "aquifer."]
Health consultation
A review of available information or collection of new data to respond to a specific health question or request for information about a potential environmental hazard. Health consultations are focused on a specific exposure issue. Health consultations are therefore more limited than a public health assessment, which reviews the exposure potential of each pathway and chemical. [Compare with "public health assessment."]
Health education
Programs designed with a community to help it know about health risks and how to reduce those risks.
Health investigation
The collection and evaluation of information about the health of community residents. This information is used to describe or count the occurrence of a disease, symptom, or clinical measure and to evaluate the possible association between the occurrence and exposure to hazardous substances.
Health statistics review
The analysis of existing health information (i.e., from death certificates, birth defects registries, and cancer registries) to determine whether there is excess disease in a specific population, geographic area, and time period. A health statistics review is a descriptive epidemiologic study.
The number of new cases of disease in a defined population over a specific time period. [Contrast with "prevalence."]
Swallowing (such as eating or drinking). Chemicals in or on food, soil, drink, utensils, cigarettes, hands, etc. can be ingested. After ingestion, chemicals may be absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body.
Breathing. People or organisms can take in chemicals by breathing contaminated air.
Moving from one location to another.
An action intended to break a completed or potentially complete human or other organism exposure pathway.
Generally considered as originating from plants or animals, and made primarily of carbon and hydrogen. Scientists use the term organic to mean those chemical compounds which are based on carbon.
An area of chemicals moving away from its source in a long band or column. A plume, for example, can be a column of smoke from a chimney or chemicals moving with groundwater.
Point of exposure
The place where someone or an organism can come into contact with a substance present in the environment. [See "exposure pathway."]
Potential Exposure Pathway
[See "exposure pathway."]
A group or number of people living within a specified area or sharing similar characteristics, such as occupation or age.
The number of existing disease cases in a defined population during a specific time period. [Contrast with "incidence."]
Public availability session
An informal, drop-by meeting at which community members can meet one-on-one with Agency staff members to discuss health- and site-related concerns.
Public comment period
An opportunity for the public to comment on agency findings or proposed activities contained in draft reports or documents. The public comment period is a limited time period during which comments will be accepted.
Public health action
A list of steps to protect public health.
Public health assessment (PHA)
A document that examines hazardous substances, health outcomes, and community concerns at a hazardous waste site to determine whether people could be harmed from coming into contact with those substances. The PHA also lists actions that need to be taken to protect public health. [Compare with "health consultation."]
Public Health Response Plan
A Public Health Response Plan (PHRP) is a written plan designed to document historic, on-going, and planned public health actions being undertaken to address specific human exposure(s) to environmental contaminants.
Public health surveillance
The ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data. This activity also involves timely dissemination of the data and use for public health programs.
Public meeting
A public forum with community members for communication about a site.
Receptor population
People or an organism who could come into contact with hazardous substances. [See "exposure pathway."]
A systematic collection of information on persons exposed to a specific substance or having specific diseases. [See "exposure registry" and "disease registry."]
Route of exposure
The way in which a person or an organism may contact a substance. For example, drinking (ingestion) and bathing (skin contact) are two different routes of exposure to contaminants that may be found in water. [See "Exposure."]
Soil vapor
The air that occupies the spaces between soil particles in the ground. Also referred to as "soil gas."
A liquid capable of dissolving or dispersing another substance (for example, acetone or mineral spirits).
Source of contamination
The place where a hazardous substance comes from, such as a landfill, waste pond, incinerator, storage tank, or drum. A source of contamination is the first part of an exposure pathway.
A person, group, or community who has an interest in activities at a hazardous waste site.
Stakeholder planning group (SPG)
A planning group consists of individuals and groups from the community who work to resolve issues and problems related to environmental contamination in the community. Members work to gather, review and prioritize community health concerns, provide information on how people might have been or might now be exposed to hazardous substances, and inform agencies on ways to involve the community in activities.
A branch of mathematics that deals with collecting, reviewing, summarizing, and interpreting data or information. Statistics are used to help evaluate whether differences between study groups are meaningful.
A chemical.
Superfund (federal and state)
The federal and state programs to investigate and clean up inactive hazardous waste sites.
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI)
An EPA database of chemical release information provided by industries that are required to report contaminant releases annually. The earliest year that TRI data is available is 1988.
Evaporating readily at normal temperatures and pressures. The air concentration of a highly volatile chemical can increase quickly in a closed room.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
An organic chemical that evaporates readily. Petroleum products such as kerosene, gasoline and mineral spirits contain VOCs. Chlorinated solvents such as those used by dry cleaners or contained in paint strippers are also VOCs. [Also see "organic" and "volatile."]

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