Florida is the third most populated U.S. state with over 21 million citizens. About 9 million Floridians live in (17) counties ranked with high social vulnerability and the state consistently ranks in the top 10 U.S. states with the most hazardous waste sites.
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program’s overarching goal is to protect, promote, and improve public health by addressing public health threats related to hazardous waste sites and releases in Florida. The program aims to assess public health risk and provide trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures to toxic substances and related health effects through following activities:
• Conducting site-specific public health assessments by evaluating environmental and health outcome data, identifying ways that people could be exposed to harmful substances from hazardous waste sites and releases, estimating exposure doses and evaluating health risk, and reporting findings to the public.
• Creating educational materials and engaging with communities to ensure members of the public have the best available information to understand site contamination, exposures and associated health risks, and how to protect their health by preventing or reducing exposures.
• Identifying public health actions to improve the health of communities and helping to ensure such actions are implemented.
FDOH’s Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program further aims to continue its efforts to protect children’s health through the Florida Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) initiative. Florida CSPECE’s purpose is to prevent new child care programs from opening in or near places, where children could be exposed to harmful environmental contamination. Florida CSPECE conducts various health-protective activities:
• Screening new child care locations for environmental hazards before licensing.
• Providing the community with education, training, and self-assessment tools.
• Promoting policy and process changes to ensure adequate screening of new child care locations.
• Partnering with relevant authorities to enable preventative action.
FDOH’s Hazardous Waste Site Health Risk Assessment Program has operated successfully since 1987. The program has produced and shared nearly 400 site-specific health risk assessments and related reports with communities around Florida. The program has formed good working relationships with many federal, state and local agencies including e.g., the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida’s county health departments, dozens of communities, and many more.