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adolescent Someone in that transitional stage of physical and psychological development that begins at the onset of puberty, typically between the ages of 11 and 13, and ends with adulthood.
behavior The way something, often a person or other organism, acts towards others, or conducts itself.
cell The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.
chemical A substance formed from two or more atoms that unite (bond) in a fixed proportion and structure. For example, water is a chemical made when two hydrogen atoms bond to one oxygen atom. Its chemical formula is H2O. Chemical also can be an adjective to describe properties of materials that are the result of various reactions between different compounds.
development (in biology) The growth of an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size and sometimes even shape.
diet The foods and liquids ingested by an animal to provide the nutrition it needs to grow and maintain health. (verb) To adopt a specific food-intake plan for the purpose of controlling body weight.
environment The sum of all of the things that exist around some organism or the process and the condition those things create. Environment may refer to the weather and ecosystem in which some animal lives, or, perhaps, the temperature and humidity (or even the placement of components in some electronics system or product).
environmental health A research field that focuses on measuring the effects of pollutants and other factors in the environment on the health of people, wildlife or ecosystems.
excrete To remove waste products from the body, such as in the urine.
hormone (in zoology and medicine) A chemical produced in a gland and then carried in the bloodstream to another part of the body. Hormones control many important body activities, such as growth. Hormones act by triggering or regulating chemical reactions in the body. (in botany) A chemical that serves as a signaling compound that tells cells of a plant when and how to develop, or when to grow old and die.
ingest (n. ingestion) To eat or deliberately bring nutrients into the body by mouth for digestion in the gut.
leach (in geology and chemistry) The process by which water (often in the form of rain) removes soluble minerals or other chemicals from a solid, such as rock, or from sand, soil, bones, trash or ash.
migrate To move long distances and across boundaries (such as across the skin) to some new site.
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (or NHANES) A long-running program (begun in the early 1960s), which has been designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. NHANES combines both physical (medical) examinations and interviews. It’s run by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, the program surveys another 5,000 people who have been chosen to be representative of all ages and races, and of people living throughout the nation.
organ (in biology) Various parts of an organism that perform one or more particular functions. For instance, an ovary is an organ that makes eggs, the brain is an organ that makes sense of nerve signals and a plant’s roots are organs that take in nutrients and moisture.
phthalates A family of chemicals used as solvents and added to plastics to increase their flexibility.
plastic Any of a series of materials that are easily deformable; or synthetic materials that have been made from polymers (long strings of some building-block molecule) that tend to be lightweight, inexpensive and resistant to degradation.
pollutant A substance that taints something — such as the air, water, our bodies or products. Some pollutants are chemicals, such as pesticides. Others may be radiation, including excess heat or light.
puberty A developmental period in humans and other primates when the body undergoes hormonal changes that will result in the maturation of reproductive organs.
reproductive organs The organs in a creature’s body that allows it to make and deliver eggs or sperm, and where appropriate, to nurture developing eggs and fetuses.
survey (v.) To ask questions that glean data on the opinions, practices (such as dining or sleeping habits), knowledge or skills of a broad range of people. Researchers select the number and types of people questioned in hopes that the answers these individuals give will be representative of others who are their age, belong to the same ethnic group or live in the same region. (n.) The list of questions that will be offered to glean those data.
taint To contaminate.
toxic Poisonous or able to harm or kill cells, tissues or whole organisms. The measure of risk posed by such a poison is its toxicity.