Last updated: April 5, 2018

What Does Contaminants Mean?

Contaminants refer to unwanted constituents that can be any physical, chemical, biological or radiological matter in materials. Contaminants cause contamination and thereby enhance the corrosion rate of materials. They give impurity to the material, physical body, natural environment and industrial products. Contaminants also cause environmental pollution.

Sources of contaminants are varied:

  • Land-based industrial activity
  • Pollution by ships
  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Oil, gas and mineral exploration
  • Exploitation and riverine inputs

Contaminants cause contamination and corrosion. Contaminants, like chloride, can cause pitting, rapid stress-corrosion cracking, and accelerated corrosion of type 316 stainless steel.


Corrosionpedia Explains Contaminants

Contaminants are harmful substances that cause impurity to matter. Environmental contaminants are harmful chemicals that are present in land, air and water. These contaminants can directly come from industries, soil runoff and wastewater. Electronic failure occurs mainly through environmental contaminants with some enabling conditions.

Fine and coarse particles of different ions are contaminants. These ions could be chlorides, sulfates, ammonium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. Relative humidity is the environmental condition affecting the impact of these particulate matter and gases.

Contaminants in the condensate of a cooling system cause corrosion, for example. To reduce this corrosion, it is necessary to lower the concentration of acidic contaminants in the condensate. Other contaminants—such as chloride, sulfide, acetate and ammonia—also affect corrosion rates of iron and copper in the condensate system.

Corrosion of metal is mainly caused by chemical reactions between contaminants and the metal surfaces. Contaminants cause corrosion in various areas of materials like they cause corrosion at the internal wall of a natural gas pipeline. The nature and magnitude of corrosion depends on the composition and combinations of the various corrosive constituents within the pipe, as well as of the operating conditions of the pipeline.

Ammonia is another very common contaminant. This contaminant causes ammonia contamination. The consequence of this contamination is the breakdown of nitrogenous organic contaminants, hydrazine or amine treatment chemicals, which ultimately cause ammonia stresscorrosion cracking.


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