Any substance that makes the environment dirty or contaminated is a pollutant. Soot is an example of an air pollutant, and chemical pollutants can make their way into the water supply.

Trash that doesn't quickly biodegrade is one kind of pollutant—think of plastic bags floating around in the ocean. Chemicals that find their way into the air we breathe and the water we drink are another kind of pollutant. Pollutant comes from pollution, from the Late Latin pollutionem, "defilement," and its root polluere, "to soil or defile."

Definitions of pollutant

n waste matter that contaminates the water or air or soil

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DDT, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
an insecticide that is also toxic to animals and humans; banned in the United States since 1972
CFC, chlorofluorocarbon
a fluorocarbon with chlorine; formerly used as a refrigerant and as a propellant in aerosol cans
a compound in which the hydrogen atoms of a hydrocarbon have been replaced by bromine and other halogen atoms; very stable; used in fire extinguishers although it is thought to release bromine that depletes the ozone layer
nitrogen oxide
any of several oxides of nitrogen formed by the action of nitric acid on oxidizable materials; present in car exhausts
sulfur dioxide, sulphur dioxide
a colorless toxic gas (SO2) that occurs in the gases from volcanoes; used in many manufacturing processes and present in industrial emissions; causes acid rain
HCFC, hydrochlorofluorocarbon
a fluorocarbon that is replacing chlorofluorocarbon as a refrigerant and propellant in aerosol cans; considered to be somewhat less destructive to the atmosphere
any one or more chlorofluorocarbons (or related compounds) that are used as an aerosol propellant, organic solvent, or refrigerant
Type of:
waste, waste material, waste matter, waste product
any materials unused and rejected as worthless or unwanted

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