back to pollution page


Vocabulary for Pollution


1. pollution

Anything that harms the environment and changes it for the worse.

2. ecology

The study of how living things interact with each other and their environment.

3. ecosystem

The community of organisms that live in a particular area, along with their nonliving surroundings.

4. strip-mining

To obtain coal, the land is destroyed.

  • Strip mining gouges out the surface of the land. (It scars the land)
  • Fertile top-soil is buried under rocks.
  • When rocks are exposed to precipitation, acids are washed away.
  • These acids seep into the ground also polluting the land and soil.

5. hazardous waste- give definition and examples

Any discarded material that causes death or serious harm to human health

  • Produced when factories discard or release toxic (poisonous) chemicals.
  • Toxic wastes are stored in barrels and buried in dumps.  These barrels can leak over time, releasing toxic chemicals into the land.


  • Try to produce less of them by reusing some wastes.
  • Chemically treat the material - sometimes adding some chemicals or water can neutralize or weaken them. - The problem with this is that this is expensive.

6. radioactive waste


They are the discarded material from making energy in a nuclear power plant.

  • Most threatening form of land pollution but it is very clean
    • Nuclear wastes are dangerous
    • Almost impossible to safely discard.
    • They used to bury them in concrete or glass containers and then bury them.  They would eventually corrode and leak, allowing radioactive wastes to escape and pollute the land.
    • These wastes can cause cancer and other serious illnesses

Solutions: Scientists suggest alternatives to burying:

7.   renewable resource

A natural resource that can be replaced by nature in a short period of time.  Example: people, plants, water, air, soil etc.

8.non-renewable resource

A natural resource that cannot be replaced by nature in a short period of time (takes hundreds to millions of years to replace itself)  Example: Fossil Fuels, rocks, minerals, some trees.

9.   natural resource

Any item that is made by nature and can be used by man. (not man-made).

10.   solid waste-

Define and list the three sources

Any useless, unwanted, discarded materials.  (Garbage)

  • There are many sources of solid wastes:
  • Agricultural: Waste materials from farming.
  • Household: garbage from homes
  • Industrial/commercial: garbage from factories or businesses

11.   solid waste-

Three methods of handling solid waste


1) Burning - incineration

2) Burying

3) Recycling

12.  sanitary landfill

 Garbage is compacted, then covered with a layer of topsoil and planted with grass.  No hazardous wastes are allowed.  When they are filled they can be used as parks or other recreational area. 

13. dump

 Garbage is just in piles in a secluded spot.  There are many problems with dumps; rats, bacteria, smell, dangerous gases and it oozes into the soil.  This is not used today!

14. List four  methods of disposing of solid wastes and a problem associated with each method

  • Alternatives to disposing of solid wastes
    • sanitary landfills: We can't find places to put them. 
    • Ocean Dumping: the problem is we pollute our waters
    • Burning: The problem is we pollute the air
    • Recycling: This is the best solution (considered the solid waste solution of the future, however not everything is recyclable and not many people recycle!


15. leachate

Polluted liquid produced by water passing through buried waste in a landfill.

16. incineration

The burning of solid waste.

Advantage: is it does not take up much space and they do not pose a risk of polluting groundwater. The heat  used for the burning can also be used to generate electricity. "waste-to-energy" plants

Disadvantage: some pollution is released into the air, some waste still will remain and these plants are expensive to build

17. biodegradable

Capable of being broken down by bacteria and other decomposers

18. groundwater

Water stored in underground layers of soil and rock.

19. sewage

Waste materials carried away by sewers and drains (from toilets)

o       Sewage is sometimes dumped directly into rivers and streams.

o       Sewage contains disease-causing bacteria – kills marine life and is unsuitable for drinking or eating marine animals.

20.  pesticides

Chemicals that kill crop-destroying organisms.  These can pollute bodies of water.

21. agricultural wastes

Animal waste, fertilizers and pesticides that can be washed by rain into ponds or lakes and can then cause an algae explosion.

22. thermal pollution

Heated water released by power plants can kill organisms in the body of water into which it is released.

23. What is the major cause of water pollutionObtaining and using certain energy resources -- fossil fuels and nuclear energy can pollute the water.

24. Chernobyl

Radioactive Waste Disaster

25. Love Canal

Hazardous Waste Disaster

26. temperature inversion:


Cool air near the earth’s surface is trapped under a layer of warm air.  Pollutants are trapped with it. Pollutants are produced by industry burning fossil fuels

27. emissions

Pollutants that are released into the air.

28. photochemical  smog

Thick brownish haze formed when certain gases in the air react with sunlight.  (a mixture of the words smoke and fog)   It can cause eye and throat irritation and breathing problems.

29. acid rain

A general term to describe precipitation that has a pH lower than 5.6, which is that of normal rain. (Pure water has a pH of 7.) Caused by the emissions from power plants and factories that burn coal and oil.

30. carbon monoxide

A dangerous indoor air pollutant. It is a colorless and odorless gas that forms when wood, coal, or gas isn't  icompletely burned.  It can be deadly if it builds up in an enclosed space.

31.  Radon

A dangerous indoor air pollutant. It is a colorless and odorless gas that is radioactive. It can enter through cracks in basement walls or floors. It is formed naturally by certain types of rocks underground.

32. Examples of indoor air pollution: 

Appliances, fireplaces, stoves, ovens, air fresheners, disinfectants, cleaning supplies and cigarette smoke are all sources of indoor air pollution


32. What is the most significant source of air pollution?  Most air pollution is caused by motor vehicles.

33. Global Warming

The theory that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will raise Earth's average temperature

34. The Greenhouse Effect

The trapping of heat near Earth's surface by certain gases in the atmosphere

35.  CFC's (Chlorofluorocarbons) The major cause of the ozone hole.  They are a group of gases which were used in many household products. They are gases that contain chlorine and fluoride, Had been used in refrigerators. air conditioners and fire extinguishers.