Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Contaminate and Contaminant

The word contaminate is a verb and contaminant is its noun form. “Contaminate” means to make (something) dangerous, dirty, or impure by adding something harmful or undesirable to it.  In other words it means to pollute something.

It can also be used figuratively to convey a flawed character or thought such as: “a child’s mind is pure and innocent until it gets contaminated with adult beliefs”.  The past tense of contaminate is contaminated.

Here are a few sentences using the word “contaminate”.

  • Factories contaminate rivers by emptying effluent (liquid waste) into them. 
  • The air in our cities is contaminated by smoke emitted from car exhausts. 
  • Be careful that the wound is not contaminated by bacteria. 
  • Don’t touch the microchip with oily hands or you will contaminate it. 
  • Contaminated food can cause serious illnesses such as jaundice, typhoid, cholera and many others. 
  • My bedroom had to be repainted because the painter accidently contaminated the white paint with tinges of blue. 
  • Water from sewage pipes can leak into water pipes contaminating our drinking water supply. 
  • The cafeteria closed down because its food was contaminated with rat poison causing one person’s death. 
  • The once clean lake is now contaminated with thousands of plastic bags and waste matter, killing all the marine life. 
  • The tsunami in Japan caused many animals to be contaminated with radio-active material from the nuclear installation. 
  • Surgeons use gloves while operating to avoid contaminating the wound. 
  • The food was sent back to the kitchen as it was contaminated with human hair. 
  • The election process has been contaminated by corruption. 
  • Racist ideas contaminate the minds of many people in the west. 

“Contaminant” on the other hand is something that makes a place or a substance (such as water, air, or food) no longer suitable for use.  “Contamination” is the process of getting contaminated.  Some examples are given below:

  • Radio-active contaminants in the surroundings of the nuclear plant have resulted in no humans living there. 
  • There is great danger from bacterial contaminants in fruit juices sold on the street. 
  • The atmosphere in the room made us choke with cigarette smoke contaminants. 
  • Contaminants such as bacteria can enter a wound and cause it to become septic. 
  • The drinking water was not clean; it contained contaminants similar to mud. 
  • Excessive firework displays lead to contaminants in the air which cause asthma. 
  •  Water melons are often injected with coloured water contaminants which can cause acute diarrhoea. 
  •  Contaminants in coal mines have caused lung disease in thousands of miners. 
  • A good way to remove contaminants from drinking water is to filter and boil it. 
  • Contaminants in the fuel supply caused my car to break down. 
  • The well water supply in the village became non potable (undrinkable) because of waste contaminants in the well. 
  • There is a great increase in contaminants in the milk at each stage before it reaches the customer. 
  • In olden days nickel was considered a contaminant when found in copper. 
  • In modern age environmental contaminants are increasing day by day.  

Thus we see that both words mean the same but “contaminate” is a verb while “contaminant” is a noun.  A final thought: do not contaminate the world with contaminants like cigarette smoke!


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