Biological Contamination

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

What do terrorists, your favorite dog, and tasty food have to do with one another? They're all possible sources of biological contamination. Find out more about this topic in this lesson.

Biological Contamination

They're in our walls. They're in our food. They're in the water. They may even be in the air. And some of them are out to get us. They are biological contaminants. Biological contamination generally refers to contamination of our food or environment with microorganisms. This means bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. There's an exception to this definition, however.

You'll find out what that exception is as you also learn more about biological contamination in general.

Our Food

Biological contamination can occur in our food and water. For instance, have you ever ordered some take-out and then gotten really sick afterwards? Maybe you had vomiting and diarrhea for a few hours or even a few days. That was unpleasant, no? Well, it was probably due to biological contamination stemming from a virus or bacterium in that food. That's one way of viewing biological contamination of our food and water, through the microscopic lens since viruses and bacteria are microscopic (invisible to the naked eye).

Microscopic organisms, such as these bacteria, may contaminate our food.

The exception alluded to in the intro, is that you can also view biological contamination of our food and water via macroscopic organisms, the ones we can see with our own eyes. This would include finding rodents and insects in a water source or bowl of chili.

Our Environment

While food may be the obvious or more famous place where biological contamination can occur, it's by no means the only one. Think of our environment. This means nature and the environment you find yourself in on a daily basis, such as buildings at work or even your own home. Biological contamination can occur in both places. Don't believe me?

If you work in a hospital, a surgical suite may be contaminated with dangerous viruses and/or bacteria after a patient has had surgery. That's an example of biological contamination at work. What about your home? Well, how many times have you been warned about mold growing in the walls or underneath the carpeting or tiles of your home? Mold is a biological organism, and it is an unwanted one, too! Thus, it is a contaminant.

Your backyard is part of your home and the environment. It can be biologically contaminated, too. If you have a pet dog that doesn't visit the vet, it may have parasitic intestinal worms. Every time the dog poops, the backyard will be contaminated with the eggs of those worms. Those may, in turn, make their way into a child's mouth, since children like to put dirty things and hands in their mouth after playing outside. That can infect the child and may even cause permanent vision loss in some cases!

One final example of a biological contaminant, this one particular to the environment at large, is the constant threat of biological terror. You've probably heard of various terror groups or even nation-states trying to buy or develop biological weapons of mass destruction. Some of them work on the principle of contaminating our water source or simply the air around us with deadly organisms.

Lesson Summary

As if we didn't have enough to worry about! We now have to worry about biological contamination. Worry isn't good for memory, though, so let's stop worrying and let's start reviewing what we've learned.

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