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A pollutant is any substance introduced into the natural environment that adversely affects the usefulness of a natural resource or the health of humans, animals, or ecosystems.[1] Pollutants can be artificial substances, such as pesticides and fossil fuel combustion products, or naturally occurring substances, such as radon (Rn) or carbon dioxide (CO2) that may occur in harmful concentrations in a given natural environment.

Three factors determine the severity of a pollutant: its chemical composition, concentration and persistence.[2] Some pollutants are biodegradable and therefore will not persist in the natural environment in the long term.

Air pollutants

For more information, see: Air pollution.

There are a great many types of air pollutants. The most notable ones are:

Air and water pollutants

For more information, see: Air pollution and Water pollution.

There are also a great many pollutants which may contaminate either air or water:

Other pollutants


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  2. Miller, G Tyler (1995). Environmental science: working with the Earth, 5th Edition. ITP. ISBN 0-534-21588-2. 
  3. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved February 20,2009.
  4. Earth's Greenhouse Gases University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Retrieved February 9, 2009.
  5. The Dirty Dozen. United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Retrieved on February 20, 2009.
  6. L. Ritter, K.R. Solomon, J. Forget, M. Stemeroff and C. O'Leary. Persistent organic pollutants. United Nations Environment Programme. Retrieved on February 20,2009.
  7. ToxFAQs for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  8. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  9. Directive 2004/42/CE of the European Parliament EUR-Lex website. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  10. Volatile Organic Compounds Health Canada. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  11. Concerns about MTBE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved February 20, 2009