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Acute health effect: An effect occurring within hours or days that may result from exposure to certain contaminants, for example, carbon monoxide poisoning.

Acute myocardial infarction: More commonly known as a heart attack. A medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to a part of the heart is interrupted. The resulting blood or oxygen shortage causes damage and potential death of heart tissue.

Adverse health effect: A change in body function or cell structure that might lead to disease or health problems.

Age adjusted: A measure that has been statistically modified to minimize the effect of different age distributions in the different populations.

Age-group: People grouped together based on age.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ATSDR's mission is to prevent exposure and adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposure to hazardous substances from waste sites, unplanned releases, and other sources of pollution in the environment. The agency's functions include public health assessments of waste sites, health consultations concerning specific hazardous substances, health surveillance and registries, response to emergency releases of hazardous substances, applied research in support of public health assessments, information development and dissemination, and education and training concerning hazardous substances.

Air pollution: Unhealthy particles and gases in the air that harm people, animals, plants, and even objects such as buildings and statues. Air pollution can be present as a solid, liquid, or gas. Acid rain is an example of gases and liquids mixing with otherwise clean air.

Air Quality Index (AQI): The AQI is EPA’s index for reporting daily air quality. It indicates how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards (NAAQS) to protect public health.

Air Quality System (AQS): The Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System (AQS) database contains measurements of air pollutant concentrations in the 50 United States, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The measurements include both criteria air pollutants and hazardous air pollutants.

Air toxics: 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: Open air or outdoor air. Ambient air is a blanket of gases surrounding the earth. At ground level, air is a mixture of invisible and odorless gases, mostly nitrogen and oxygen, with smaller amounts of water vapor, argon, carbon dioxide, neon, helium, and hydrogen.

Analyte: A substance measured in the laboratory. A chemical for which a sample (such as water, air, or blood) is tested in a laboratory. For example, if the analyte is mercury, the laboratory test will determine the amount of mercury in the sample.

Anencephaly: Anencephaly is a birth defect that affects the closing of the neural tube during pregnancy. The neural tube is a narrow channel that folds and closes during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy to form the brain and spinal cord. Anencephaly occurs when the portion of the neural tube that forms the brain does not close. This results in the baby lacking parts of the brain, skull, and scalp. Read more about anencephaly.

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.

Autism: The most common condition in a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). ASDs are developmental disabilities defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with ASDs also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to different sensations.

Autoimmune diseases: A group of more than 80 diseases in which the body's immune system attacks its healthy cells. These diseases can affect many parts of the body.

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New Hampshire Environmental Public
Health Tracking Program
NH Department of Health and Human Services,
Division of Public Health Services
29 Hazen Drive  |  Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-4988  |  (800) 852-3345 ext.4988