Updated: Jun 27
TALLAHASSEE, FL., May. 7, 2019 – Governor DeSantis Office of Policy and Budget met with families affected by cancer and experts to address concerns about water quality and its impact on the health of communities in Florida.
In the meeting was Cheryl Joza, a 15-year advocate from Manatee County whose sister passed from cancer after exposure to toxins at Bayshore High School. Jozsa’s sister, Terri Jewell, died in 1999, at 38, from Leukemia. Later Jozsa discovered her sister’s high school classmates were also diagnosed with cancer. She began crowdsourcing medical information and sought the help of professional experts, which included an Epidemiologist, Toxicologist, Biostatistician, and Geologist, to review data; the consensus was a resounding concern. She found toxins in the water a mile north of the campus where a machine shop business had been. After discovering the decades of environmental neglect and lack of cleanup, she began a mission to save lives.
“I know that I speak for the majority of the victims and their families from across the state, and they care that the beaches we used to love are now littered with marine life carcasses, that the once crystal blue waters are now murky, and so contaminated with toxins that it’s too dangerous to swim in and that the air is dangerous to breathe. We are supposed to protect lives. It’s time for the State of Florida leadership to stop dismissing these issues, start recognizing a connection, take immediate steps to clean up the environment, and hold the culprits accountable.” Said Jozsa. Native Floridians are using their skills and talents for good by working together to protect their land and the people who live on it.
Emerald Cromwell, a nurse from Pinellas County and an environmental advocate, attended the meeting. She was diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) and discovered that others in the community were also dealing with this rare and unforgettable diagnosis. Cromwell found that two of her acquaintances from St. Petersburg had undergone treatment for the same type of cancer as her own. She also lost her lifelong best friend, Shannon Jagger, who she had been inseparable from since kindergarten, to the same disease. Cromwell is dedicated to making a positive impact by increasing awareness, raising funds for treatment research, and advocating for healthier communities.
Cancer survivor and nationally recognized advocate Stel Bailey, dad of five Jeff Dubitsky, Hydrogeolgoist David Woodhouse, other nurses, and two environmental scientists expressed the need for immediate action to raise awareness about the potential dangers of harmful chemicals in and around industries. They have also stressed the need to remediate contamination of water sources.
During the discussion, experts emphasized the importance of addressing PFAS contamination by recommending a ban on all new PFAS variants and new chemical class uses. They also suggested that Florida enforce water standards for total PFAS, require reporting of PFAS releases, and remediate any contamination of water supplies on or near military installations.
“We need better policies to safeguard Florida communities from the same inevitable toxic exposure. Allowing large corporations to contaminate the environment has repercussions, and it’s important to set the acceptable level of toxins in the environment as close to zero as possible.” Stel Bailey said.
Fight for Zero aims to unite Florida communities and work with state officials to tackle issues affecting citizens' health and the environment. To achieve this, the group proposed a collaborative solution in the form of a Taskforce committee. This committee comprises citizens and government representatives working together to foster trust, increase awareness, educate people, and promote transparency. The primary focus is addressing the growing problem of polluted waterways and its impact on public health.