Key Words

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Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS): A technique for measuring long-lived radionuclides that occur naturally in our environment.  It differs from other forms of mass spectrometry in that it accelerates ions to extraordinarily high kinetic energies before mass analysis.

Ambient Air Monitoring: A systematic assessment of pollutant levels by measuring the quantity and types of certain pollutants in the surrounding, outdoor air. Note that most PAHs in ambient air are the result of man-made processes.

AHR Signaling: The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a soluble ligand-activated transcription factor known to bind dioxins including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and related planar aromatic hydrocarbons such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and a variety of structually diverse dietary and endogenous molecules. The AHR is a member of the basic helix-loop-helix Per-ARNT-Sim (bHLH-PAS) protein family of developmental regulators and environmental sensors. The AHR is well known for its role in regulating genes encoding biotransformation enzymes, but the physiological role(s) and endogenous ligand(s) are poorly understood. The signaling pathway is the activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor by structurally diverse exogenous and endogenous chemicals. Toxicity results from two different ways of Ahr signaling. The first is a function of the adaptive response in which the induction of metabolizing enzymes results in the production of toxic metabolites. For example, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a ligand for Ahr, induces its own metabolism and bioactivation to a toxic metabolite via the induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1B1 in several tissues.


Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP): An organic compound with the formula C20H12  that is a potent carcinogen, and generally used as an environmental indicator for PAHs.  BaP is not produced or used commercially but is very commonly found since it is formed as a result of incomplete combustion of organic materials.

Bioavailability: A term used to describe the way chemicals are absorbed by humans and other animals.

Biomarkers: Physical traits used to measure or indicate the effect of a chemical or other environmental exposure.


Carcinogenicity: The ability or tendency to produce cancer.

Chemoprevention: The use of chemical agents, drugs, or food supplements to prevent the development of cancer.

Collaborative Partnership: SRP projects incorporate authentic partnerships with researchers, communities, and interested parties to reach beyond traditional research models and more thoroughly integrate community needs and expertise into the environmental health research.  This model gives communities the tools they need to promote health and reduce the risk of disease.

CYP1B1 Inhibitor: Human CYP1B1 is known to be a key enzyme in metabolism particularly in forming 4-hydroxy enzymes, which has been implicated in the carcinogenic process.


Developmental Toxicity: The occurrence of adverse effects on the developing organism that may result from exposure to a chemical prior to conception (either parent), during prenatal development, or postnatally to the time of sexual maturation. Adverse developmental effects may be detected at any point in the life span of the organism.


Eco-cultural Health: People and communities, especially indigenous communities, are forced to deal with an increasingly complex set of environmental, social, cultural, and economic problems related to pollution. People and their practices mold and are molded by their environments. The health of the community is impacted by the entire eco-cultural system that is at risk.

Embryonic Development: In reference to zebrafish, there areseven broad periods of embryogenesis--the zygote, cleavage, blastula, gastrula, segmentation, pharyngula, and hatching periods. These divisions highlight the changing spectrum of major developmental processes that occur during the first 3 days after fertilization.

Environmental PAH Mixtures: PAHs are a class of organic compounds produced by incomplete combustion or high-pressure processes. The most common PAHs include: benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(e)pyrene, benzo(g,h,i)perylene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, chrysene, coronene, dibenz(a,h)acridine, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, and pyrene.

Environmental Chemistry: The scientific study of the chemical and biochemical phenomena that occur in natural places.

Environmental Public Health: The science of conducting and translating research into action to address environmental exposures and health risks of concern to the public. Learn more from NIEHS PEPH Program

Epigenetics: An emerging frontier of science that involves the study of changes in the regulation of gene activity and expression that are not dependent on gene sequence. See NIH Roadmap for Medical Research for more information.

Epigenomics: The epigenome consists of chemical compounds that modify, or mark, the genome in a way that tells it what to do, where to do it and when to do it. The marks, which are not part of the DNA itself, can be passed on from cell to cell as cells divide, and from one generation to the next. See the National Human Genome Research Institute for more information.


Focus Groups: A form of qualitative research used in SRP within the Community Outreach Core in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, service, concept, or idea. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members.Focus groups allow researchers to have a better understanding of effective communcation strategies, community needs, and community feedback.

Fullerenes: Any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes.


Genomics: The study of genes and their function. Genomics aims to understand the structure of the genome, including the mapping genes and sequencing the DNA. Genomics examines the molecular mechanisms and the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in disease.


Human Capacity Building: Transforming community approaches to social and environmental problems by assisting them in being competent around skills. For SRP Community Outreach and Translation Cores skills are related to measuring levels of PAH in the air and minimizing expsoure. The training of community members comes from their desire, wants, and needs.


In Vitro Metabolic Activation: Creating the chemical reactions of metabolism in test tubes in the lab. These reactions are organized into metabolic pathways, in which one chemical is transformed through a series of steps into another chemical, by a sequence of enzymes.


Mass Spectrometry (MS): An analytical technique for the determination of the elemental composition of a sample or molecule.  See how a Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectronomety (GCMS) instrument works

Metabolites: The intermediates and products of metabolism. The term metabolite is usually restricted to small molecules.

Microfluidic Methods: Manipulation of fluids that are geometrically constrained to a small, typically sub-millimeter, scale.

Microarray: A two-dimensional grid of DNA genes or gene fragment spots, usually arranged on a glass slide or silicone wafer. A typical microarray contains 10,000-200,000 microscopic DNA spots.  Microarrays can tell you what class of chemical is present based on the unique pattern created by the different genes expressed. See how it works.

Multivariate Regression Assessments: a generic term for any statistical technique used to analyze data from more than one variable using regression to make predictions.

Mutagen: An agent, such as a chemical, that can induce or increase the frequency of mutation in an organism.


Nanomaterials: A field which takes a materials science-based approach to nanotechnology. It studies materials with morphological features on the nanoscale, and especially those which have special properties stemming from their nanoscale dimensions. Nanoscale is usually defined as smaller than a one tenth of a micrometer in at least one dimension, though this term is sometimes also used for materials smaller than one micrometer.

Native American: Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples from North America. Native Americans today have a unique relationship with the US, because they can be found as members of nations, tribes, or bands of Native Americans who have sovereignty or independence from the government of the United States. The Community Outreach Core is working closely with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).


PAH Exposure: PAHs are found throughout the environment in the air, water and soil, and can remain in the environment for months or years. Human exposure can occur from soil near hazardous waste sites or near areas where coal, wood, gasoline or other products have been burned. Some water supplies in the United States have been found to have low levels of PAHs. In the home, PAHs are present in tobacco smoke, smoke from wood burning stoves and fireplaces, creosote-treated wood products and some foods. Barbecuing, smoking or charring food over a fire greatly increases the amount of PAHs in the food. Other foods that may contain low levels of PAHs include roasted coffee, roasted peanuts, refined vegetable oil, grains, vegetables and fruits. A variety of cosmetics and shampoos are made with coal tar and therefore may contain PAHs. The PAH compound naphthalene is present in some mothballs and cleaners.  Learn more at All About PAHs.

PBPK-physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Model:  A characterization of the interactions of a drug and the body in terms of its absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion

Passive Sampling Devices (PSD): A method of determining airborne and water concentrations of volatile contaminants. PSDs collect samples with a small badge-like device that relies on the diffusion of compounds to a collection surface or sorbent. The diffusion barrier across the badge confers a constant, predetermined effective flow rate that is only slightly affected by temperature and unaffected by pressure (or altitude). The PSD hangs in the sampling area for periods ranging from 8 hours to one month. After the sampling period, it is capped and returned to a laboratory for analysis using traditional methods.

Personal Air Sampling: Using anapparatus for use in collecting airborne particles utilizing a collection vessel in which airborne particles are collected for analysis.

Pharmacokinetics:  The activity of drugs in the body over a period of time, including the processes by which drugs are absorbed, distributed in the body, localized in the tissues, and excreted. [From National Cancer Institute]

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): Chemical compounds that consist of fused aromatic rings and do not contain heteroatoms or carry substituents. PAHs occur in oil, coal, and tar deposits, and are produced as byproducts of fuel burning (whether fossil fuel or biomass). As a pollutant, they are of concern because some compounds have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic. PAHs are also found in foods. Learn more.


Smoked Fish: Fish products, made from different fish or fish parts treated with fresh smoke. Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and their upriver cousins had been drying and smoking salmon for hundreds of years. It was a cultural foundation as well as a staple food. Smokehouses of cedar planks hold rows of fish to be cooked, flavored, and preserved by the smoke curling toward a vent in the roof.

Smokehouse Exposure: Refers to human exposure of PAH from byproducts of fuel burning used in smokehouses.

Subsistence Lifestyles: "Subsistence' is the word used to describe a traditional way of life among many Native Americans. In a physical sense, it refers to the practice of relying on the surrounding environment as a source of food and materials for daily living.


T-cell Lymphoma: A disease in which certain cells of the lymph system (called T lymphocytes) become cancer. [From National Cancer Institute]

Transgenics: Organisms that have had foreign DNA stably integrated into their genome.

Transplacental Carcinogens: Carcinogens are administered to mothers can be dispersed by all their metabolic pathways and can be transferred transplacentally. In the future, experimental evidence defining the pathways of carcinogenesis in adults will provide clearer insight into how cancers arise. This will be most helpful in unraveling the more complex issue of transplacental carcinogens.

Transplacental Dosimetry: The calculation of the absorbed dose in matter and tissue resulting from the exposure to the placenta.


Zebrafish: Danio rerio, species of small freshwater aquarium fish with a transparent embryo making it possible to follow progeny of single cells until quite late stages of development. This, together with the availability of mutant lines make it an important preparation for the study of vertebrate cell lineage and developmental biology.