Pollution - key words

Properties of pollutants
The properties of a pollutant determines the length of time it may cause a problem, the level of harm it can cause, and where and how far it will might travel.
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State of matter
Whether a polluting material is a solid, a liquid or a gas affects its ability to be dispersed by moving water or air.
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Energy form
The different pollutants that are energy forms, such as noise, heat ionising radiation or light, have widely varying impacts because of the way the energy behaves.
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The density of a material will affect its dispersal. (Density is a measurement that compares the amount of matter an object has to its volume.)
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Persistance is a measure of the length of time that a pollutant remains in the environment before it breaks down chemically (degrades).
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This is a measure of how poisonous a substance is to living organisms.
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Specificity is a property of toxic pollutants and is used to describe variations in toxicity to different groups of organisms.
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The reactivity of a pollutant can affect the severity of the pollution caused, either or reducing the problem caused.
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Primary pollutants
A primary pollutant is one that is released by human activites.
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Secondary pollutants
A secondary pollutant is one that is produced by chemical reactions between one or more primary pollutants, often with non-pollutants.
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Adsorption is the adhesion of atoms, ions or molecules from a gas, liquid or dissolved solid to a surface, like soil particles.
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Solubility in lipids/water
Substances that have high solubility in water are easily dispersed in water bodies, for example nitrates.
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This is a process by which the amount of a substance within an organism increases. It often involves the long term ingestion of small doses of a liposoluble pollutant.
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Substances that bioaccumulate may become more concentrated as they pass along a food chain, becoming concentrated into a progressively smaller biomass with each successive trophic level.
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Synergism in pollution involves two or more pollutants where their effects interact to create a different effect, usually a more serious one.
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Mutagenic action
Mutagens are agents which cause changes in the chemical structure of DNA by damaging chromosomes by rearrangement of the DNA structure.
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Gonadic effects
A mutation in an egg, or sperm cell, or in an embryo, may cause a birth abnormality in the offspring produced.
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Somatic effects
A mutation in a body cell may make it behave abnormally as the damaged DNA cannot control normal cell function.
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Carcinogenic action
Carcinogens are mutagens that cause cancer.
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Teratogenic action
Teratogens cause birth abnormalities by preventing normal gene expression.
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The ability of a pollutant to move in the environment depends upon other properties, especially its state of matter, density and solubility in water.
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Card 2


State of matter


Whether a polluting material is a solid, a liquid or a gas affects its ability to be dispersed by moving water or air.

Card 3


Energy form


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Card 4




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Card 5




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