Environmental Chemicals & Pollutants

Environmental Chemicals & Pollutants

Many chemicals and pollutants are naturally present in the environment, while other chemicals are created by humans for use in consumer, or everyday, products. Some chemicals may cause harmful health effects. There is continuous research being done to learn more about the health effects from harmful chemicals and how to reduce your exposure to them. Vermont has passed laws intended to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals and to inform the public about chemicals in consumer products.

The Health Department is a great resource for information about chemicals and health. Toxicology staff research the effects of chemical exposure and stay current on exposure and risk assessment. Here you will find information on natural and human-made chemicals and pollutants found in the air, water, soil and consumer products.

General Screening Values

The Health Department develops general screening values which can be used to evaluate potential exposure to some chemicals in:

Contact Information

Toxicological Sciences Program
Phone: 802-863-7220 or
800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont)
Fax: 802-863-7483

[email protected]

In This Section

Arsenic is a natural element found in rocks and soil and is often found in well water. It can also come from human activities and is used in some consumer products. Over time, arsenic causes cancer along with other health effects.

Benzene is the name of an aromatic hydrocarbon, C6H6. In liquid form, benzene is clear, colorless, and flammable.

Most carpet is made with synthetic (human-made) materials. However, carpets can also be made of wool or other natural materials.

Dry cleaners use chemicals to clean clothes and other fabrics. When these chemicals are breathed in, they can be harmful to your health. They can remain in the environment for decades.

Formaldehyde is a colorless gas at room temperature that sometimes has a noticeable smell.

At room temperature, metallic mercury is a shiny, silver-white liquid. Breathing in vapors of metallic mercury can cause health effects.

Ozone is a colorless gas with a noticeable smell. Although ozone is naturally found in the atmosphere, it is also a main part of air pollution called smog.

“Particulate” is a general name given to a tiny solid or liquid particle or piece of matter. It usually refers to particles in the air (airborne particulates).

PCBs are a group of human-made chemicals that can cause serious health problems. Vermont has requirements for schools built or renovated before 1980 to test for PCBs in indoor air and to make fixes if levels are high.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, is the name given to substances that contain carbon and evaporate or “off-gases” at room temperature.