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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances



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Nutrient - "Element or compound essential for animal and plant growth. Common nutrients in fertilizer include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium." - U.S. Geological Survey, 2007

Nutrients - "Major elements (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus) and trace elements (including sulfur, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) that are essential for the growth of organisms. - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009

Nutrients - "Nutrients are chemical elements that are essential to plant and animal nutrition. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that are important to aquatic life, but in high concentrations they can be contaminants in water. These nutrients occur in a variety of forms. Both are affected by chemical and biological processes that can change their form and can transfer them to or from water, soil, biological organisms, and the atmosphere." - Mueller and Helsel, 1996

Nutrients - "Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for healthy plant and animal populations; however, elevated concentrations of these nutrients can degrade water quality ... Elevated nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in surface water can trigger eutrophication, resulting in excessive, often unsightly, growth of algae and other nuisance aquatic plants ... Excessive nutrient concentrations have been linked to hypoxic conditions, such as those found in the Gulf of Mexico, which can harm fish and shellfish that are economically and ecologically important to the Nation." - Fuhrer and others, 1999

Related Definitions



USGS Information on Nutrients

Related Science Feature Articles

Other Information on Nutrients


Fuhrer, G.J., Gilliom, R.J., Hamilton, P.A., Morace, J.L., Nowell, L.H., Rinella, J.F., Stoner, J.D., and Wentz, D.A., 1999, A systematic approach to understanding nutrients and pesticides--National water-quality priorities and concerns: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1225, 84 p. 

Mueller, D.K., and Helsel, D.R., 1996, Nutrients in the Nation's waters--Too much of a good thing?: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1136, 24 p.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009, Glossary of technical terms: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, access date July 30, 2010.

U.S. Geological Survey, 2007, Glossary--Nutrients: U.S. Geological Survey, access date July 30, 2010.


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