Frequently Asked Questions
Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin A-08
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1710
Florida DOH does not:
- Make or enforce laws and rules concerning hazardous waste sites
- Provide medical services for people exposed to hazardous waste sites
- Provide cleanup or relocation
- Take samples, except for some private well testing
- Q: What are hazardous waste sites?
- Q: What is CERCLA / Superfund?
- Q: What is National Priority List (NPL)?
- Q: How many sites in Florida are on the National Priorities List (NPL)?
- Q: What data does the Florida Department of Health’s Hazardous Waste Sites Health Risk Assessment Program review to assess a site?
- Q: What hazardous waste sites have been assessed in Florida?
- Q: How do chemicals harm health?
- Q: How do people come into contact with chemicals?
- Q: What health guidelines do program staff use to see how much public health risk exists at a site?
- Q: How does DOH conduct a health assessment?
- Q: What activities are not a part of the health assessment program?
- Q: How does the health assessment program inform people who live near a hazardous waste site about these reports?
A: A hazardous waste site may be a former landfill, it could be the site of a former industry, or where crops were once grown. It could be any place where chemicals have gotten into the soil, water, or air. Contact with the chemicals found at such sites may harm health.
A: The NPL is a list of sites of national priority among the known contaminated sites throughout the United States threatened by hazardous substances, pollutants, or other contaminants.
A: Other agencies, including the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), take samples of soil, water, and air at hazardous waste sites. Department of Health staff look at these test results to see what chemicals they find, and at what levels. The staff studies the known health effects for each chemical found at a site. They also see if there is way for people to come in contact with the chemicals (exposure).
A: The Hazardous Waste Sites Health Risk Assessment Reports page lists all of the health reports the program has written since 1987 about specific sites in Florida in alphabetical order. They include those written reports for ATSDR as well as ones written for others.
A: Some chemicals are toxic in small amounts. Others may be toxic only in large amounts. A chemical cannot harm a person unless they come into contact with it.
Harm from most chemicals depends on:
- How someone contacted it,
- How much they contacted,
- For how long, and
- How often?
A: There are three ways people come into contact with chemicals:
- Ingesting (eating, drinking, licking lips, or touching mouth with unwashed hands)
- Inhaling (breathing in a chemical)
- Dermal (skin contact or touching a chemical)
A: The program uses ATSDR guidelines to assess a site. These guidelines help figure out if the level of each chemical found at a site is enough to be a health threat. ATSDR keeps up with the latest research. They update guidelines on a routine basis. This helps provide the best, most up-to-date knowledge on health effects that may occur when someone comes into contact with site chemicals. It helps the program better serve people living near sites who want to know what health risk the site may pose.
A: To assess a site, the program staff:
- Gathers soil, water or air test results from EPA or DEP,
- Studies the data,
- Asks for more tests, if needed,
- Looks for levels known to harm health,
- Writes a draft health report,
- Gets review by EPA or DEP,
- Asks for public comment (Note: knowing what health concerns exist is of the utmost interest),
- Responds to all comments in a final report,
- Shares findings from the report with the public,
- Gives advice on how the public can keep healthy,
- Tells health care providers what they may need to know about a site (if needed), and
- Gives EPA or DEP input on how to protect health while a site is cleaned up.
A: The health assessment program does not:
- Make or enforce laws or rules concerning hazardous waste,
- Provide medical services for people exposed to a site,
- Provide cleanup or relocation,
- Take samples, except for some private well testing, or
- Conduct worker investigations.
A: The program staff wants to make sure that everyone living in the area near a hazardous waste site has accurate and timely information. They communicate with residents in several ways, including:
- Newsletters and fact sheets sent via direct mail, email or delivered door-to-door,
- Press releases and briefings, and
- Open-house style public meetings.