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Explanation of contaminants

Here are explanations of the 18 acronyms used to describe contaminants in this database, based on definitions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

BTEX: Term used for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene-volatile aromatic compounds typically found in petroleum product, such as gasoline and diesel fuel.
DCA: Dichloroethane, used to make chemicals involved in plastics, rubber and synthetic textile fibers. Also as a solvent for resins and fats, photography, photocopying, cosmetics, drugs, and as a fumigant for grains and orchards.
DCB: Dichlorobenzene. Used to make herbicides, insecticides, medicine, and mothballs or deodorant blocks.
DCE: Dichloroethylene. Used as a solvent for waxes and resins; in the extraction of rubber; as a refrigerant; in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and artificial pearls; in the extraction of oils and fats from fish and meat; and in making other organics.
DDE: Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene. A break-down product of DDT
DDT: An organachlorine insecticide no longer registered for use in the United States.
MBTE: Methyl tertiary butyl ether -- an oxygenate added to gasoline to improve combustion and to reduce harmful vehicle emissions. Low levels can make drinking water undrinkable due to its offensive taste and odor.
MEK: Methyl ethyl ketone, primarily a solvent for coatings, resins, and adhesives.
PAH: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are a group of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances
PCB: Polychlorinated Biphenyls) A group of toxic, persistent chemicals used in electrical transformers and capacitors for insulating purposes, and in gas pipeline systems as lubricant
PCE: Perchloroethylene
PERC: Tetrachloroethylene is a chemical solvent that is widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics, metal degreasing, and in making some consumer products and other chemicals.
PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride. Family of plastic copolymers, also known as vinyl, used to make pipes, bottles, upholstery, and automotive parts.
SVOCs: Semi-Volatile Organic Compound
TCA: Trichloroacetic acid
TCE: 1,1,1-trichloroethane usually occurs by breathing contaminated air. It is found in building materials, cleaning products, paints, and metal degreasing agents.
TCP: Trichloropropane. Mainly used to make other chemicals. Also used as an industrial solvent, paint and varnish remover, and cleaning and degreasing agent.
VOCs: Volatile Organic Compounds: These are groundwater contaminants of concern because of very large environmental releases, human toxicity, and a tendency for some compounds to persist in and migrate with ground-water to drinking-water supply well.

Further information about contaminants can be found at 


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