The Greatest Impact on People

We don't always see it, but our environment affects public health. Most people assume that health outcomes mostly result from individual choices, and although genetics plays a role, there's a lot of external things that can influence how healthy we are. The connections between our environment and public health are difficult to imagine. For example, if you live in a city with polluted water, it may be dangerous to eat the fish you catch. It's essential to reduce chemical and other environmental exposures in air, water, soil, and food to protect people and provide communities with healthier environments. Environmental health consists of preventing and controlling disease related to the interaction between people and their environment. Unlike diet and exercise, many ecological health facts can't be managed at the individual level. Combatting the risk, they pose often takes laws, policies, and programs. It takes a comprehensive and coordinated effort to protect the health and safety of communities throughout Florida.

Image by John Schnobrich

Protecting Our Children

Children are often the hardest hit by the consequences of poor environmental exposure. For their size, they breathe more air and eat more food than adults, making them more vulnerable to environmental health hazards. Even low levels of toxic exposure can affect children's physical and mental development.

Image by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Investing in Our Communities

Communities are often unaware of the threat of chemical exposures. Providing basic needs to the public, such as safe drinking water, clean air, lead poisoning prevention, and more, are essential to public health. Investing in dedicated resources will create an effective system that proactively protects Florida communities and helps everyone attain good health. 

Image by Nik Shuliahin

Need for Action

Tracking environmental exposures in communities across Florida is important to finding potential links with disease outcomes. Our homes should be free of exposures that negatively impact the health of our families. We should all have access to safe and clean public spaces. This requires participation of federal, state, and local governments.

18 Toxic Chemicals Linked to Health Concerns

Asbestos: A toxic substance that can cause cancer. Exposure to asbestos can occur by breathing contaminated air or drinking contaminated water. Inhaling asbestos can lead to chronic lung disease and is known to cause at least four types of cancer: lung, mesothelioma, laryngeal, and ovarian. Other cancer that have been linked to asbestos exposure include colorectal, throat, esophageal, and kidney, as well as cancers of the gallbladder. Asbestos continues to be used in: building supplies such as asbestos-cement shingle, asphalt roofing shingles and coatings, pipeline wrap, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, asbestos cement pipe, and asbestos clothing; and automotive products such as automatic transmission components. 

Bisphenol A (BPA): A very common chemical found in plastics, food and beverage can linings and other consumer products. BPA is a chemical that may interfere with thyroid hormone, puberty, infertility, abnormal chromosomes, and increased susceptibility to breast and prostate cancer. 

Formaldehyde: A volatile organic chemical (VOC) and long-term exposure can lead to leukemia and other cancers of the respiratory tract. Formaldehyde is found in a wide range of consumer products including; antiseptics, medicines, cosmetics, nail polish, dish washing liquids, fabrics and fabric softeners, carpet cleaners, wallpaper, glues and adhesives and in building materials such as composite wood products, furniture, cabinets, countertops, insulation and paneling. 

[Heavy Metals] Arsenic: Some of the health effects can include breathing problems, death if exposed to high levels, decreased intelligence, lung and skin cancer, nausea, diarrhea and peripheral nervous system problems. It can be found in the soil from smelters and some pesticides, treated wood, some paints, metals, soaps, drinking water in some locations and seafood can contain arsenic.

[Heavy Metals] Lead: Some of the health effect can include behavioral problems, anemia, kidney damage, learning difficulties, miscarriage and reduced IQ. Lead can be found in art supples, speciality paints, some hair dyes and drinking water when lead leaches out of pipes.

[Heavy Metals] Mercury: Some of the health effects can include brain damage, digestive problems, kidney damage, and lack of coordination. Mercury is emitted by coal-burning power plants, oil refineries, medical waster disposal facilities, dental offices, cremation facilities and fish may contain it if mercury gets into water.

Hexane: A solvents widely used as an industrial cleaner & degreaser that's easily inhales or absorbed through the skin. Short-term exposures can cause headaches, dizziness, confusions, nausea, clumsiness and drowsiness. Common household products, such as spray adhesives, contact cement, arts and craft paints contain hexane.

Hexavalent Chromium: A pollutant that can contaminate soil, water supplies and hazardous waste sites. Exposure to hexavalent chromium can cause blood disorders, male reproductive harm, shortening of breath, cough, wheezing, non-cancerous lesions​

Methylene Chloride: A solvent used in a paint strippers. Has been linked to cancer, cognitive impairment and asphyxiation. 

N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP): A solvent used in paint strippers linked to developmental impacts including miscarriages. 

PCBs and DDT: A human-made chemical that was banned in 1972. It was first produced in the late 1920's to cool fluids, for agricultural and commercial use. Even though it was banned vegetable, meat, fish and dairy products contain DDT. Studies suggest that PCBs are toxic to the immune system, reproductive organs and thyroid. 

Perfluorinated Compounds: Chemicals created to repel water from clothing, carpeting, furniture and food packaging. The two most commonly found contaminate are: PFOA and PFOS. Health concerns include increased risk of various cancers, liver and kidney damage as well as reproductive problems. 

Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic Chemicals (PBTs): Health effects can include cancer, neurological toxicity, reproductive toxicity, developmental toxicity or immune system damage. 

Phthalates: Hormone-disrupting chemicals that interfere with testosterone activity and male reproduction. Phthalates are used as adhesives, dyes or inks, and solvents in products such as air fresheners, detergents, fragrances and nail polish. 

Toxic Flame Retardants (PBDEs): Three common mixtures of these chemicals - pentagon, octave, and deca. Can be found in house dust as well as indoor air and migrate out of products like electronics, furniture and wind up in house dust.  Also have been found n fish, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetable and infant formula. Potential health effects: altered neurobehavioral, thyroid, liver and impaired immune system.

Toxic Flame Retardants (TDCP and TCEP): Found in strollers, nursing pillows, couch and chairs. Suspected to cause cancer, and neurological and reproductive harm. Traces of TDCP have been detected in sewer effluence, river water, drinking water, sediment and in fish throughout the world. Health effects can include cancer of the liver, kidney and testis. 

Trichloroethylene (TCE): A volatile organic compound used in consumer products such as adhesives, lubricants, and pepper spray. EPA classifies TCE as carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure. Potential to induce neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, developmental toxicity, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity and endocrine effects. TCE is present in drinking water, surface water, ambient air, groundwater and soil. 

Vinyl Chloride: Found in pipes, wire and cable coatings, packaging materials, upholstery for automobiles and furniture, wall and floor coverings, flooring, backing for carpet, housewares, medical devices and children's toys. Major manufacturers have agreed to phase out the use of PVC in their products. Exposure by breathing contaminated air and drinking contaminated water can lead to liver cancer, brain cancer and some cancer of the blood. 

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