Research into Florida's Environmental Issues
You may wonder about the devastating algae blooms that turn Florida's waterways into a vibrant green hue killing wildlife and fish. That's one of the most visible problems in Florida, but sadly there are many other issues. Discharges of polluted water, leaking septic tanks, and fertilizer runoff are just a few things degrading water quality throughout the state. Our coastal estuaries and unique ecosystem are both natural resources at risk. These environmental issues negatively impact human health, most notably our children's health.
To make matters worse, Florida is rapidly rising in population, and there's a growing demand for drinking water which is depleting the state's underground supply. We depend on a healthy environment and need to do better at protecting Florida's environmentally sensitive land. Our health depends on it. The Fight for Zero team is passionate about reconnecting families to nature and inspiring communities to protect their natural resources. The team researches environmental issues through archived newspapers, historical documents, old maps, public record requests, libraries, and data found through government agency websites. We believe in the power of knowledge and that sharing information can assist in the early detection of some diseases and promote healthier lifestyles that prevent disease.
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.
Investing in Our Communities
Communities are often unaware of the threat of chemical exposure. 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.
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 the participation of federal, state, and local governments.
The Air You Breathe
Poor air quality is linked to premature death, cancer, and long-term damage to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
What is Environmental Health?
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, many external things 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.
LINKS TO DATA
IN THE NEWS
Florida May Not Be Testing Drinking Water Correctly, Says Government Memo: http://wlrn.org/post/florida-may-not-be-testing-drinking-water-correctly-says-government-memo
Over 77 million people spread across all 50 states have been drinking from water systems that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act..." Florida is #2 on this list: https://impact.vice.com/en_us/article/pg7wxn/your-state-is-probably-on-this-list-of-water-system-violators
The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters. https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2016/05/14/public-blasts-dep-over-new-water-toxin-standards/84382154/
Florida has the sixth highest number of hazardous waste sites, known as Superfund sites, in the United States. In 2016, the state was projected to have the second largest number of new cancer cases in the country. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170306145109.htm
Bayshore High: "Cancer cluster" concerns at Bayshore High are under investigation.
Fort Pierce: Rare form of cancer sickens 11 people within a seven-mile radius.
Miami: Higher-than-expected rates of pediatric cancers have been identified in the Miami metro area and an area west of the Everglades.
Palm Bay: Harris Corp. has been cited for sloppy handling of hazardous waste, including cancer- causing pollutants, flammable solvents, and sludge that could contaminate groundwater.
Palm Beach County: At least 13 cases of brain cancer.
Patrick Air Force Base: Cancer-Causing Chemicals Detected In Groundwater At Patrick Air Force Base.
Seminole County: Researcher studies number of rare childhood brain cancer cases in Central Florida.
Southwest Florida: A closer look at where a cancer-causing chemical was found in SWFL tap water.
The Silence of the State: This is a story about pediatric cancer clusters in Florida.
DID YOU KNOW?
Class I and II surface water classification requires that the surface waters of each state be classified according to designated uses. Florida has six classes with associated designated uses, which are arranged in order of the degree of protection required.
Class I: Portable water supplied fourteen vernal areas throughout the state, including impoundments and associated tributaries, certain lakes, rivers, or portions of rivers, used as drinking water supply.
Class II: Shellfish propagation or harvesting generally coastal waters where shellfish harvesting occurs. geodata.dep.state.fl.us
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is a federal law that protects public drinking water supplies throughout the nation. Under the SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and, with its partners, implements various technical and financial programs to ensure drinking water safety. https://www.epa.gov/sdwa
If a community has to do a "chlorine burn," it is a drinking water utility's first step in admitting something is wrong. The length of chlorine burns should be kept to a maximum of 21 days. An event such as a chlorine burn or a switch from chloramine to chlorine is considered to be part of the normal operations of a system for periodic maintenance. Erin Brockovich
Dozens of EPA Superfund sites, such as the gasification plant, which leaked dangerous chemicals into the ground, still exist throughout Central Florida. Read More: Superfund Sites
As of 2011, cancer is now the leading cause of death for Floridians, surpassing heart disease. In the three-year period from 2009-2011, the total number of cancer deaths was 122,921. There's an average of 100,000 new cancers diagnosed and reported each year to the statewide cancer registry, the Florida Cancer Data System. Florida Health
Florida was projected to have the second-largest number of new cancer cases in the United States. Tandfonline
Hazardous waste permits provide treatment, storage, and disposal facilities with the legal authority to treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste. Source: EPA Hazardous Waste Permitting
"Dr. Amin’s statistical analysis of pediatric cancers in Florida – from the years 2000 to 2007 – concluded that there are significant cancer clusters in two large areas of Florida: the southern region of Florida and in northeast Florida. That struck one of the most sensitive nerves in state government." Source: https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/04/cancer-clusters-in-florida-the-silence-of-the-state/
"A statewide increase in pediatric cancer rates that started in 2005. Five separate research teams from the group Science and Public Policy analyzed data from 2000-2010. Although their methodologies differed, they were all attempting to detect cancer clusters in the Florida area. "Unusually high" cancer rates." Source: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/researchers-find-pediatric-cancer-clusters-in-florida-042115.html
Children have an increased risk from environmental hazards compared to adults during development. https://www.who.int/ceh/risks/en/
The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life. https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/lawn/factsheets/Pesticide.children.dontmix.pdf
Children experience great exposure to toxic chemicals n their environment based on their body size. Pesticide.children.dontmix.pdf
Children's metabolic pathways are immature. In many cases, children are more vulnerable because they are less able to detoxify and excrete toxic substances than adults. https://www.who.int/ceh/capacity/Children_are_not_little_adults.pdf
Delicate developmental presses are easily disrupted while children undergo rapid growth and development. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp358
Even minute exposures to toxic chemicals during these critical windows of development can lead to permanent injury to the brain and other organ systems.
Because children have more years of life ahead, there is more time to develop the disease than can be triggered by early environmental exposures. https://www.who.int/ceh/risks/en/
Children need healthy environments to play and learn in so that they may reach their full potential. As adults, we must ensure that children are protected from environmental threats like toxic chemicals and air pollution.
OCULUS Florida Department of Environmental Protection Document Management System (Use the "public OCULUS login button)
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 cancers linked to asbestos exposure include colorectal, throat, esophageal, and kidney, as well as gallbladder cancers. 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, dishwashing 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 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, some pesticides, treated wood, some paints, metals, soaps, drinking water in some locations, and seafood can contain arsenic.
[Heavy Metals] Lead: Some health effects can include behavioral problems, anemia, kidney damage, learning difficulties, miscarriage, and reduced IQ. Lead can be found in art supplies, specialty paints, hair dyes, and drinking water when lead leaches out of pipes.
[Heavy Metals] Mercury: Some 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 waste disposal facilities, dental offices, and cremation facilities, and fish may contain it if mercury gets into the water.
Hexane: A solvent widely used as an industrial cleaner & degreaser that's easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Short-term exposures can cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, clumsiness, and drowsiness. Common household products, such as spray adhesives, contact cement, and arts and crafts 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 breath, cough, wheezing, and non-cancerous lesions.
Methylene Chloride: A solvent used in 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 1920s to cool fluids for agricultural and commercial use. Even though it was banned, vegetables, 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 contaminants 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. It can be found in house dust and indoor air, migrate out of products like electronics and 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, couches, 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, and backing for carpets, housewares, medical devices, and children's toys. Major manufacturers have agreed to phase out the use of PVC in their products. Exposure to breathing contaminated air and drinking contaminated water can lead to liver cancer, brain cancer, and some blood cancer.