Glossary of Terms and Definitions



Acute – occurring over a short time, usually minutes to hours.

Acute Effect - an adverse effect on any living organism when severe symptoms develop rapidly. Symptoms often disappear or diminish after exposure stops. The term ‘acute’ may also refer to exposure and toxicity.

Acute Exposure – either one or a series of several short-term exposures (or doses) generally lasting less than 24 hours.

Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI) - heart attack.

Adverse Birth Outcome(s) - Examples of adverse birth outcomes include pre-term births, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities, miscarriage, or neurodevelopmental defects. Adverse birth outcomes may be the result of harmful environmental exposures to the mother and father, prior to and during the pregnancy, as well as from other sources.

Age-Adjusted Rates - a measure that controls for the effects of age differences on health event rates. When comparing across geographic areas, some method of age-adjusting is typically used to control for the influence that different population age distributions might have on health event rates. Age-adjustment may also be used to control for age effects when comparing across several years of data, as the age distribution of the population changes over time.

Age-Specific Rate - a crude rate limited to a particular age group. The numerator is the number of cases or events in that age group; the denominator is the total number of persons in that age group in the population of interest.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) - a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, visit the ATSDR web site.

Air Quality Index (AQI) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed the AQI for reporting daily air quality with regard to five major air pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The AQI reports how clean or polluted the air is and whether air quality at a given time poses a risk to health. For additional information about the AQI, visit the AIRNow web site.

Air Quality System (AQS) - a database which contains ambient air pollution data collected by the U.S. EPA and by state, local, and tribal air pollution control agencies.

Air Toxic (also referred to as hazardous air pollutant or toxic air pollutant) - any air pollutant that is likely to cause serious or irreversible long-term health effects in humans. Air toxics may cause cancer, developmental effects, reproductive problems, neurological disorders, and genetic mutations. They include pollutants for which a national ambient air quality standard does not exist.

Ambient Air - any unconfined portion of the atmosphere: outdoor air.

Analyte – a substance measured in the laboratory. A chemical for which a sample (such as water, air, or blood) is tested in a laboratory.

Aquifers - underground geological formations, or groups of formations, that can store or transmit water. Aquifers are sources of groundwater for wells and springs. Common use of the term normally refers to water-bearing formations capable of yielding enough water to provide a usable supply.

Arithmetic Mean (or simply mean) – an average of all values within a dataset.

Arsenic - a naturally occurring element widely distributed in the earth's crust. In the environment, arsenic is combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in animals and plants combines with carbon and hydrogen to form organic arsenic compounds. Inorganic arsenic compounds are mainly used to preserve wood. Organic arsenic compounds are used as pesticides, primarily on cotton plants.

Asthma - a serious, chronic lung disease that causes the airways (bronchial tubes) to become narrow and makes it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks are often caused by environmental triggers, such as molds, dust mites, and tobacco smoke.

Average Annual Count - an average (calculated as the mean), over a multi-year period, of the counts seen each year during that period.

Average Annual Rate – an average (calculated as the mean), over a multi-year period, of the rates or proportions seen each year during that period.

Top ^


Background Level – a concentration (of chemicals) that is present in the environment either due to natural occurrence or from man-made sources.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) - the largest, continuously conducted, telephone health survey in the world. It enables the Center for Disease Control (CDC), state health departments, and other health agencies to monitor modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases and other leading causes of death. For more information, visit the CDC’s BRFSS web site.

Birth Defects - an abnormal condition that occurs before or at the time of birth. Birth defects include a wide range of abnormalities with varying levels of impact. Examples of birth defects include spina bifida, cleft palate, upper and lower limb deformities.

Top ^


Cancer - any one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and grow or multiply out of control.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) - a toxic gas that you cannot smell or see. CO is given off whenever fuel or other materials are burned. Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - a disease that affects the amount of oxygen getting to the brain and vital organs. As CO gas is inhaled, it readily displaces oxygen in the blood, leading to headache, dizziness, nausea, and at high concentrations, people can become unconscious or die.

Carcinogens - substances, including radionuclides or radiation, that are directly involved in the initiation or promotion of cancer.

Cardiovascular Disease - refers to a group of diseases and conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, with heart attack and stroke occurring most frequently. Congestive heart failure, hypertension (also known as high blood pressure), and disease of the arteries, veins, and circulatory system are the other diseases and conditions included in the term cardiovascular disease.

Cell Suppression - a statistical method used to report aggregate health data in tables that restricts or suppresses the release of aggregate health data in order to protect the identity and privacy of individuals and to avoid the risk of identification of individuals in small population groups. One type of cell suppression rule is to not release numbers or rates when the number of events (e.g., number of cancer cases among females in a community) is less than 6 and the population (e.g., number of females in the community) is less than 1,200. A cell suppression rule applies only to confidential health data and not data otherwise available to the public, such as air pollution data.

Census - a procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. A census of the U.S. population is taken every ten years in order to apportion the number of members of the United States House of Representatives among the several states. Census statistics are also used to apportion federal funding for many social and economic programs. For more information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau web site.

Census Block - the smallest geographic entity for which the U.S. Census Bureau tabulates decennial census data. Many blocks correspond to city blocks bounded by streets, but blocks in rural areas may include several square miles and have some boundaries that are not streets.

Census Block Group - a unit of U.S. census geography that is a combination of census blocks. A block group is the smallest unit for which the U.S. Census Bureau reports a full range of demographic statistics. There are about 700 residents per block group. A block group is a subdivision of a census tract.

Census Tract - a small, statistical subdivision of a county that usually includes approximately 4,000 inhabitants, but which may include from 2,500 to 8,000 inhabitants. A census tract is designed to encompass a population with relatively uniform economic status, living conditions, and some demographic characteristics. Tract boundaries normally follow physical features, but may also follow administrative boundaries or other non-physical features. A census tract is a combination of census block groups.

Center for Health Statistics (CHS) at the New Jersey Department of Health - The Center for Health Statistics (CHS) collects, researches, analyzes and disseminates New Jersey health data and information and serves as a resource to the Department in development of health data policy. For more information, visit the Department’s Center for Health Statistics web site.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – a federal public health agency, part of Department of Health & Human Services. For more information, visit the the CDC web site.

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) - The CLPPP was established for the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of lead poisoning, including the elimination of sources of poisoning through research and educational, epidemiologic, and clinical activities as may be necessary. CLPPP provides a range of both primary and secondary prevention services to the children of New Jersey, their families and others with an interest in the prevention of lead poisoning.

Chronic Effect - an adverse effect on an organism in which symptoms recur frequently or develop slowly over a long period of time. The term “chronic” can also apply to exposure and toxicity. The term is usually applied to a condition spanning several weeks, months or years.

Community Water System (CWS) – a public water system that serves year-round community residents (at least 25 people or at least 15 service connections).

Concentration - the relative amount of a substance mixed with another substance. Examples are "five parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide in air" or "1 milligram per liter (mg/L) of lead in water".

Confidence Interval (CI) - used to account for the difference between a sample from a population and the population itself. They can also be used to account for uncertainty that arises from natural variation. Confidence intervals provide a means of assessing and reporting the precision of a point estimate, such as a hospitalization rate. A CI is a range around a measurement conveying the amount of precision. In general, the wider the range, the less precise the number.

Contaminant – a substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause adverse health effects.

Contamination - presence of contaminants in the air, water or soil.

Correlation – a relationship that results when a change in one variable is consistently associated with change in another variable.

Criteria Pollutants - EPA uses six "criteria pollutants" as indicators of air quality, and has established for each of them a maximum concentration above which adverse effects on human health may occur. These six pollutants are: Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Particulate Matter (less than 10 microns), Lead, and Carbon Monoxide.

Crude Rate - the number of events (such as deaths) in a specified time period divided by the number of people at risk of these events (typically, a state or county population) in that period. This figure is generally multiplied by a constant such as 1,000 or 100,000 to get a number that is easy to read and compare, and thus, the rate is reported as “per 1,000” or “per 100,000.” A rate per 100 is the same as a percent. Crude rates adjust for differences in population size but not differences in population characteristics, such as age.

Cumulative exposure - the sum of exposures of an organism to a chemical over a period of time.

Top ^


Deciliter – one-tenth, , of a liter; (approximately 3 ounces).

Denominator - the lower portion of a fraction used to calculate a rate or ratio.

Detection limit - the lowest concentration of a chemical that can reliably be distinguished from a zero concentration.

Disease Rate – a measure of how frequently a disease occurs in a population.

Disinfection Byproducts (DBP) -Disinfection byproducts, or DBPs, result when disinfectants like chlorine combine with organic matter. Disinfectants are added to drinking water to kill or inactivate harmful organisms that cause various diseases. The most common DBPs formed when chlorine is used are trihalomethanes (THMs), and haloacetic acids (HAAs).

Dose - amount of a substance to which a person is exposed over some time period.

Top ^


Emission – pollution discharged into the atmosphere from smokestacks, other vents and surface areas of commercial or industrial facilities, from residential chimneys and from motor vehicle, locomotive, ship or aircraft exhaust.

Environment - air, water, soil, and food and the contaminants found within them

Environmental Contaminant - a pollutant in the environment.

Environmental Hazard - any condition or situation in the environment which poses a threat.

Environmental Justice - the pursuit of equal and fair access to a healthy environment; equal enforcement of environmental regulations; and a movement to protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental hazards.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – a federal environmental agency. Founded in 1970, EPA's mission is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment-air, water, and land-upon which life depends. EPA provides leadership in the nation's environmental science, research, education, and assessment efforts. EPA works closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and Indian tribes to develop and enforce regulations under existing environmental laws. EPA is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs and delegates to states and tribes responsible for issuing permits and monitoring and enforcing compliance. Where national standards are not met, EPA can issue sanctions and take other steps to assist the states and tribes in reaching the desired levels of environmental quality. The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts. EPA is an active partner in CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network initiative through the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Health and Human Services. For more information about the U.S. EPA, visit the agency web site.

Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) - refers to ongoing collection, integration, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data from environmental hazard monitoring and human exposure or health effects surveillance.

Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in conjunction with grantee states, have developed a national Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network. The national network integrates and standardizes data and information from various monitoring and surveillance systems at the federal, state and local levels. For more information, For more information, visit the national EPHT network web site.

Epidemiology - the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems.

Ethnicity - often used synonymously with ancestry and includes concepts of culture, language, and national origin. Ethnic groups are often multiracial. In terms of health statistics, "ethnicity:" refers to whether or not an individual is Hispanic.

Exposed (exposed group) – often used to connote a group whose members have been in contact with a supposed cause of a disease state or health state of interest.

Exposure – contact of an organism with a chemical or physical agent at a specific concentration for a specific time period.

Exposure Assessment – a measurement or estimation of the magnitude, frequency, duration and route of exposure to a substance for a population of interest.

Top ^


Fine Particulate Matter – a reference to particles <2.5 µm in diameter, also denoted as PM2.5

Frequency - the number of times an event occurs within a stated period of time.

Top ^


Geographic Information System (GIS) - a mapping system that uses computers to collect, store, manipulate, analyze, and display data. For example, GIS can show the concentration of a contaminant within a community in relation to points of reference such as streets and homes.

Geometric Mean – a measure of central tendency only calculable for positive values. It is calculated by taking the logarithms of all values within a dataset, calculating their arithmetic mean, and then taking the antilogarithm of the resultant.

Groundwater - water beneath the earth's surface in the spaces between soil particles and between rock surfaces

Top ^


Haloacetic acids (HAA5) - byproducts resulting from the disinfection of public water supplies. Haloacetic acids (five) is the sum of the concentrations of mono-, di-, and trichloroacetic acids and mono- and dibromoacetic acids.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - The Administrative Simplification provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) are intended to reduce the costs and administrative burdens of health care by making possible the standardized, electronic transmission of many administrative and financial transactions that are currently carried out manually on paper. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  HIPAA web site.

Health Outcome (also known as health effect) - a disease or health condition measured or observed in a population or an individual.

Human Carcinogen – a compound for which sufficient evidence exists in epidemiological studies to support a causal association between exposure and cancer.

Hydrocarbon - a chemical compound consisting only of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons, which occur naturally in petroleum, natural gas, coal, and wood, are often used as fuels. They are emitted into the air when the fuel does not burn or burns only partially. Hydrocarbons react in the presence of nitrogen oxides and sunlight to form ground-level ozone, a major component of smog. The most commonly tracked hydrocarbons are volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Top ^


ICD-9 - International Classification of Disease, 9th revision; a numbered system for classifying diseases and health conditions that is published by the World Health Organization and used as an international standard for epidemiological and health management purposes.

ICD-10 - International Classification of Disease, 10th revision; published in 1990 as an updated version of ICD-9.

Incidence Rate - the frequency with which new cases of illness occur in a population over a specified period of time. This rate is computed as the number of new cases of a disease occurring in a period of time (numerator) divided by the size of the population at risk of becoming a case during that period of time (denominator). The result is often multiplied by a base number, such as 1,000 or 100,000, so that the resulting rate is the number of new cases of that disease per 100,000 people, which can then be compared.

Incidence Rate, Age Adjusted - an incidence rate that controls for the effects of differences in population age distributions. When comparing across geographic areas, some method of age-adjusting is typically used to control for the influence that different population age distributions might have on health event rates. Direct age-adjustment (or age standardization) is the same as calculating a weighted average. It weights the age-specific rates observed in a population of interest by the proportion of each age group in a standard population.

Indicator – a factor that identifies and communicates a system's status. An environmental public health indicator (EPHI) provides information about a population's health status with respect to environmental factors. It can be used to assess health or a factor associated with health (i.e., risk factor, intervention) in a specified population through direct or indirect measures.

Indoor Air Pollution - air pollutants that occur within buildings or other enclosed spaces, as opposed to those occurring in outdoor or ambient air. Some examples of indoor air pollutants are nitrogen oxides, smoke, asbestos, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide.

Infant Mortality - death of a child younger than one year of age. These deaths are often divided into two groupings: neonatal mortality (death of an infant within the first 27 days of life) and postneonatal mortality (death of an infant 28 – 364 days old).

Infant Mortality Rate - the number of children in a population who die before their first birthday divided by the number of live births in that population during the same time period.

Inhalable particles – all dust capable of entering the human respiratory tract.

In situ (cancer) - a tumor that fulfills all microscopic criteria for malignancy but does not invade or penetrate surrounding tissue.

Inspirable Particle – a particle capable of entering the respiratory tract through the nose or mouth and provides a source of absorption into the body.

International Classification of Diseases (ICD) – diagnostic codes; developed and maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify diseases and signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury or disease. Usually referred to by version, as in ICD-9 or ICD-10. For more information, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site.

Invasive (cancer) - malignant cancers that have spread from their point of origin when initially diagnosed.

Top ^



Top ^


Lead (elemental symbol Pb) – a metal formed in the earth’s crust, and can be found in all parts of our environment—water, air, and soil.

Leukemia - cancer of the blood or bone marrow, characterized by an abnormal proliferation (production by multiplication) of blood cells, usually white blood cells. Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases.

Low Birth Weight - A baby is born with low birth weight when its weight is less than 2500 grams (approximately 5.5 pounds) at birth.

Top ^


Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - an enforceable regulation that the EPA considers practically and feasibly attainable. In many cases, such as those regarding water systems, the MCL is equivalent to the MCLG (see below), because the EPA believes that the water system can provide this level of protection. For carcinogenic contaminants, however, the EPA realizes that it is most likely impossible to completely eliminate the contaminant and does not set an MCL at "zero." Rather, the EPA sets a level that can be attained, given available technology and resources.

Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) - an MCLG indicates the ideal level of protection that can be provided against any adverse health effects that may be experienced after exposure to a given contaminant through drinking water.

Measure - a quantitative measurement indicating the magnitude of an indicator that can be used for comparison.

Median – the middle value of a distribution above and below which lie an equal number of individual values; a midpoint.

Metadata - data about data that describes the content, quality, and context of a dataset and provides links to additional information such as quality assurance documents and data dictionaries.

mg/L - milligrams per Liter.

Microbiologicals (or microorganisms) - refers to microscopic organisms.

Microenvironments - well-defined surroundings such as the home, office, or kitchen that can be treated as uniform in terms of stressor (contaminant) concentration.

Microgram (µg) - one millionth, , of a gram (about 3.53 x 10-8 ounces).

Micrometer (µm) (also referred to as micron) – one millionth, , of a meter (about 3.94 x 10-5 inches).

Mobile Source – a source of air pollution that moves, such as automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, off-road vehicles, boats and airplanes.

Morbidity - the occurrence of a disease or condition that alters health and quality of life; often measured as incidence or prevalence rates.

Mortality - a fatal outcome; death.

Mortality Rate - the number of deaths in a specific population during a specific period of time divided by the size of the population during that period of time. The result is often multiplied by a base number, such as 1,000 or 100,000.

Multimedia Exposure – exposure to a toxic substance from multiple pathways such as air, water, soil, food, and breast milk.

Myocardial Infarction (MI) – (also termed AMI for acute myocardial infarction, and commonly called heart attack); occurs when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked.

Top ^


National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) – federal air quality standards. The EPA established National Ambient Air Quality standards for six “criteria” pollutants commonly found in outdoor air. EPA calls these pollutants "criteria" air pollutants because it regulates them by developing human health-based and/or environmentally-based criteria (science-based guidelines) for setting permissible levels. For more information about NAAQS, visit the U.S. EPA web site.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) – a federal agency, part of the National Institute of Health (NIH). For more information, visit the NCI web site.

National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) – a federal environmental public health agency, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, visit the NCEH web site.

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) – a federal statistical agency for health data, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, visit the NCHS web site.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) - a federal agency, part of the Department of Health & Human Services. For more information, visit the NIH web site.

Natural Sources – non-manmade emission sources, including biological and geological sources, wildfires, and windblown dust.

Neonatal Mortality - death in the first 28 days of life. The leading causes of neonatal deaths are birth defects, disorders due to prematurity and low birth weight, and pregnancy complications.

New Jersey State Health Assessment Data (NJ SHAD) System – a website maintained by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Service that provides access to non-sensitive public health datasets and information on the health status of New Jerseyans. For more information, visit the Department’s NJ SHAD web site.

Nitrates - compounds of nitrogen and oxygen. The major source is found in food but high levels of nitrates can be found in drinking water due to factors such as septic tanks and fertilizer run-off. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted into nitrites. High nitrate levels in drinking water can be a risk to infants. Nitrites can pose a risk to children and adults.

Nitric Oxide (NO) – a gas formed by combustion under high temperature and high pressure in an internal combustion engine; it is converted by sunlight and photochemical processes in ambient air to nitrogen oxide. NO is a precursor of ground-level ozone pollution, or smog.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) - the result of nitric oxide combining with oxygen in the atmosphere; major component of photochemical smog.

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) - the result of photochemical reactions of nitric oxide in ambient air; major component of photochemical smog. Product of combustion from transportation and stationary sources and a major contributor to the formation of acid rain and ozone in the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxides may be harmful to the lungs and aggravate asthmatic symptoms.

Nonattainment area - a geographic area in which the level of a criteria air pollutant persistently exceeds the level allowed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma - a diverse group of hematologic cancers which encompass any lymphoma other than Hodgkin lymphoma.

Non-Point Source – a diffuse air pollution source that is not recognized to have a single point of origin.

North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) - a professional organization that develops and promotes uniform data standards for cancer registration and conducts other activities to promote and support high quality cancer surveillance in North America. For more information, visit the NAACR web site.

Numerator - the upper portion of a fraction used to calculate a rate or ratio.

Top ^


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – a federal agency, part of the U.S. Department of Labor. Established to ensure safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. For more information, visit the OSHA web site.

Ozone (O3) – usually formed through a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ozone is necessary and important in high levels of the atmosphere, but ground-level ozone is considered “bad” and can be harmful to health. Ozone is one of the six pollutant regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Top ^


Part per billion (ppb) – a unit of measurement commonly used to express a contamination ratio, as in establishing the maximum permissible amount of a contaminant in water, land, or air.

Part per million (ppm) – a unit of measurement commonly used to express a contamination ratio, as in establishing the maximum permissible amount of a contaminant in water, land, or air.

Particulates - fine liquid or solid particles such as dust, smoke, mist, fumes, or smog are found in air or emissions. Very small solids suspended in water can vary in size, shape, density and electrical charge and can be gathered together by coagulation and flocculation. See also PM10 and PM2.5.

Pb – lead.

PM - Particulate Matter See PM10 and PM2.5.

PM10 - particulate Matter <10μm in diameter which deposit in upper (larger) air passages in the lungs. PM10 is one of the “criteria” pollutants regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

PM2.5 - particulate Matter <2.5μm in diameter which deposit in lower (smaller) air passages in the lungs. PM2.5 is one of the “criteria” pollutants regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Point Source – a discrete object from which pollutants may be discharged (e.g. pipes, conduits, wells, smokestacks).

Possible Human Carcinogen – a compound for which there exists limited evidence from animal studies and inadequate or no data in humans to support a causal association between exposure and cancer.

Post Neonatal Mortality - defined as death from one month of age until the first birthday. The leading causes of post neonatal morality include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), birth defects, and injuries.

Preterm Birth - A baby is considered to be preterm when the gestation period is less than 37 weeks.

Prevalence - the proportion of a defined population affected by a disease at a specified point in time. The numerator of the proportion comprises all those who have the disease at that instant, regardless of whether it was diagnosed recently or long ago.

Prevalence Rate - the percent of the population with a particular condition or characteristic. It is calculated as the number of people in a population who have a health condition divided by the total number of people in the population.

Primary standard - a pollution limit set by the EPA for a criteria pollutant and based on health effects.

Private Well Testing Act (PWTA) – a New Jersey consumer information law that requires sellers (or buyers) of property with wells in NJ to test the untreated ground water for a variety of water quality parameters,
including 32 of human health concern, and to review the test results prior to closing of title. For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection web site.

Probable Human Carcinogen – a compound for which there exists limited evidence in epidemiological studies and/or sufficient evidence from animal studies to support a causal association between exposure and cancer.

Public Water Systems - provide piped water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or regularly serve 25 individuals. Community water systems are one kind of public system. All public water systems are subject to government regulation for contaminants.

Top ^


Query – a search for data. 

Top ^


Race (or racial group) - usually refers to the categorization of humans into populations or ancestral groups on the basis of various sets of heritable characteristics. In terms of health statistics, race refers to whether a person is American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, Black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and/or White.

Rate - a measure of new events or occurrences in a population. The crude rate is calculated as the number of events per time period divided by the total number of people in the population in the same time period. The crude rate represents the actual burden of disease in the population.

Respirable Particle – a particle <5 micrometers in size that can be deposited into the pulmonary region of the respiratory tract.

Top ^


Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – a federal law in the United States that covers drinking water for the public. For more information, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency web site.

Secondary standard – a pollution limit set by the EPA for a criteria pollutant and based on environmental effects such as damage to property, plants, visibility, etc.

Sex Ratio - the ratio of male to female births.

Singleton – a child born from a pregnancy with a single fetus.

Smog – a mixture of air pollutants which includes particulates, nitrogen oxides, ozone, etc. Smog often has a brown haze due to the presence of nitrogen dioxide.

Smoke - created when air combines with the airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases that are emitted when a material undergoes combustion.

Stationary Source – a non-mobile source (e.g. power plant, refinery, manufacturing facility) that emits air pollutants.

Statistically Significant - The difference between two rates is considered statistically significant if the difference would have occurred by chance less than five times out of 100. If a difference is statistically significant, it is not likely due to random chance.

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) - a pungent, colorless, gas formed primarily by the combustion of fossil fuels; becomes a pollutant when present in large amounts. Sulfur dioxide is one of the six criteria pollutants regulated via the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Surveillance - the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data (e.g., regarding agent/hazard, risk factor, exposure, health event) essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice, closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those responsible for prevention and control.

Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) – a program of the National Cancer Institute that collects information on cancer incidence, survival, and prevalence from specific geographic areas representing about 25 percent of the US population and compiles reports on all of these plus cancer mortality for the entire US. For more information, visit the SEER web site.

Top ^


Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) - EPA’s list of more than 600 designated chemicals that threaten health and the environment. Authorized under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, this system requires manufacturers to report releases of these chemicals to EPA and State governments. EPA compiles the data in an online, publicly accessible national computerized database. For more information, visit the EPA web site.

Toxicity - the degree to which a substance is able to harm a living organism.

Tracking - another word for surveillance and monitoring.

Trihalomethanes (THMs) – a family of disinfection byproducts formed when disinfectants such as chlorine, used to control disease-causing contaminants in drinking water, react with naturally occurring organic matter in the source water. The primary trihalomethanes of concern are chloroform, dibromochloromethane, bromodichloromethane, and bromoform.

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) - the total amount of trihalomethanes allowed by the EPA.

Top ^


μg/dL - micrograms per deciliter.

μg/m3 - micrograms per cubic meter of air. 

Top ^


Very Low Birth Weight - A newborn is considered to be of very low birth weight when its weight is less than 1500 grams (approximately 3 pounds 5 ounces) at birth.

Very Preterm Birth - A newborn is considered to be very preterm when the gestation period is less than 32 weeks.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - substances containing carbon and various proportions of other elements, such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur, and nitrogen; these substances easily become vapors or gases. VOCs are commonly found in gasoline, solvents (paint thinners, lacquer thinner, degreasers, and dry cleaning fluids), oil-based paints and inks, and consumer products, such as aerosol spray products. VOCs react with nitrogen oxides, sunlight, and heat to form ozone. Many VOCs are considered air toxics.

Top ^


Water Contaminant - a potentially harmful substance that is present in water, resulting from either a biological process or from point source or non-point source pollution.

Top ^


Top ^



Top ^


Acknowledgements: Glossary definitions were compiled from numerous state and federal agencies including: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state EPHT partners, NJ SHAD, U.S. EPA, U.S. Census Bureau and NJDOH resources.

Top ^
Other Glossaries

Link to Terms Commonly Encountered in the NJ State Health Assessment Data Query System

Link to NJ SHAD glossary

Link to Terms Commonly Encountered on the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Portal

Link to CDC glossary

Link to Terms Commonly Searched Keywords on the U.S. EPA Website

U.S. EPA Keywords

Top ^
Last Reviewed: 9/29/2016