Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program
Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin A-12
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1720
Since 1987, the Florida Department of Health (the Department) has received a grant from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). This grant funds a program to assess the public health risk from such sites. The program produces health assessment reports based on environmental data. Learn more about the health assessment process and see past reports.
For technical assistance with problems or questions regarding this web page, please email: phtoxicology@FLHealth.gov
- Hazardous Waste Sites in Florida
- Chemical Exposures
- Public Health Risk
What is a hazardous waste site?
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.
How many sites in Florida are on the National Priorities List (NPL)?
As of October 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 65 hazardous waste sites in Florida either on the final or proposed National Priorities List (NPL). This also includes NPL caliber sites or Superfund Alternative sites, which also merit federal interest. EPA has more details on the NPL site listing process. This includes a database that EPA keeps on sites. They call it the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System (CERCLIS). Some people also call it Superfund.
What data does FDOH review to assess a site?
Other agencies, including the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), take samples of soil, water, and air at hazardous waste sites. The program staff looks at 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 into contact with the chemicals (exposure).
What sites have been assessed in Florida?
The health 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 by ATSDR. The list includes the site’s city/county.
How do chemicals harm health?
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?
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)
What health guidelines do program staff use to see how much public health risk exists at a site?
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.
How does DOH conduct a health assessment?
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.
What activities are not a part of the health assessment program?
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.
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.
Map of Hazardous Waste Site Investigations in Florida
ATSDR Fact Sheet - Safeguarding Communities from Harmful Chemicals
ATSDR Fact Sheet - Strengthening the Environmental Health Workforce Across the Nation
Links to Other Web Sites which Relate to Hazardous Waste Site Health Assessments:
Resources for Physicians and Other Health Care Providers:
The following offers medical resource material related to the health effects from environmental exposures.