20 Ways the State of Florida Could Address PFAS Contamination

20 Ways the State of Florida Could Address PFAS Contamination

Florida has some of the highest levels of PFAS detected in the nation. The toxic man-made "forever chemicals" have been used since the 1950s to resist heat, oil, grease, and water. They were used in firefighting foams at military bases, airports, training schools, and the space industry throughout the sunshine state. 

Some of the highest levels were detected at Patrick Space Force Base, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida State Fire College, Eglin Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Pensacola, and the Kennedy Space Center. 

PFAS contamination is a public health concern linked to liver damage, low birth weight, some cancers, immune suppression, decreased fertility, and other health issues.

People can be exposed to these chemicals through the air, soil, and water. When these chemicals are in groundwater sources, they can quickly get into tap water through broken pipes. Florida's water sources are easily contaminated by raw sewage overflow, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines, and land application of sludge. All these sources have PFAS chemicals in high concentrations around contaminated areas. 

The Sunshine State's biggest polluters of this chemical are the space industry and the Department of Defense, who knew these chemicals were harmful to the environment and human health in the 1970s. 

Florida state representatives had sufficient time to defend the environment and human health from further harm caused by these toxic contaminants. State legislatures were made aware of this contamination when a Department of Defense report was released in early 2018. One bill was adopted in 2020 to assist homeowners with private well water contaminated with PFOA and PFOS. The Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) openly discusses contamination at military bases, and the space center discusses PFAS contamination in their meeting minutes as far back as 2010. A recent appropriation was introduced for the University o Florida to do a PFAS-contaminated material treatment pilot. 

Waterways across the state are being poisoned with this invisible chemical, and both wildlife and human health are at stake. Those exposed to high concentrations are paying the ultimate price for their health. Below is a list of some ways Florida leaders can address this toxic mess. 

PFAS Contamination in Florida. Map by Fight For Zero.

1. Protect First Responders by banning PFAS in firefighting foam immediately, catalog and inventory all existing AFFF available for use, and give education on exposures and disposal protocols. 

2. Protect military service members, their families, and neighboring communities by having a publicly accessible state database of all PFAS test results and continued monitoring. Inventory and track all existing PFAS foam and immediately discontinue PFAS foam for training purposes. 

3. Require that PFAS be monitored in all groundwater and keep a publicly accessible state database.

4. Have all Florida drinking water supplies be tested for a comprehensive list of PFAS and keep the information in a publicly accessible state database. Control contaminants (PFAS) in public drinking water supply and make penalties for not doing so. 

5. Hold manufacturers financially responsible for cleaning up PFAS pollution and the harm it caused communities. States are spending hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up pollution to provide safe drinking water, and the burden of PFAS is falling on taxpayers. 

6. Hold polluters responsible for all clean-up and remediation actions and costs. 

7. Create a bill with a statute of limitation of at least six years on civil action relative to damage caused by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

8. Ban all PFAS chemicals in food packaging, firefighting foam, textiles, and other non-consumer products. Maine was the first state to ban PFAS compounds by 2030, prohibiting over 4,000 compounds. 

9. A bill that establishes an ecologically-based mosquito management program prohibiting the use of pesticides containing PFAS as part of any mosquito control activity (hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid HFPO-DA, GenX).

10. Adopt health-protective water standards for the entire class of PFAS chemicals. An MCL is a maximum allowable level of a contaminant in water. Currently, Florida has no safety limit set, which allows these harmful chemicals to continue getting through the faucet. 

11. Have bottled water companies test water sources for perfluoroalkyl substances and unregulated contaminants and report results to the Department of Health. 

12. A law mandating disclosure of chemical ingredients in products, requiring a label on all items that contain these harmful chemicals, will help steer companies and consumers towards non-toxic options. One of the reasons toxic chemicals remain on store shelves is because consumers don’t know they’re there. Pass policies that require companies to let us know when dangerous chemicals are in our products. Washington state began requiring disclosure on 66 toxic chemicals in children’s products. Because of this, retailers like Target decided to screen their products for chemicals on this list.

13. Better medical guidance so that contaminated communities have access to healthcare and monitoring for early signs of PFAS-related diseases. Train physicians and engage with strategies to educate on monitoring and screen residents exposed to PFAS chemicals to be more proactive. 

14. Create Department of Defense and occupational exposure education, offer veteran & military benefits for exposure, and establish a chemical blood testing program under the department of veterans affairs for blood testing.

15. Change administrative codes for purchasing and using products, reducing toxic chemicals in many industries, including local and state governments. In 33 states, governors have issued “environmentally preferable purchasing” policies. These policies direct the State to identify and avoid toxic chemicals in cleaning supplies, building materials, and other purchased products. 

16. Corporations have the power to influence chemicals in products sold on store shelves and used in manufacturing processes. Convince companies to adopt sustainable chemical policies while holding the worst actors accountable for pollution and chemical releases.

17. Ensure that disposal of PFAS does not further contaminate communities. Create a list of responsible disposal opportunities and highlight irresponsible disposal practices. 

18. Community outreach and education to help save lives with early prevention and detection through healthcare screenings. 

19. Collect data and analyze fish for PFAS contaminates and issue a Fish Advicosry similar to the Mercury advisory on the Department of Health website. 

20. Strategies to manage PFAS in land-applied biosolids (sewage sludge) protecting Florida from further PFAS contamination.  

Fight for Zero

Our team brings passion and drive to take on environmental health challenges. Our mission is to inform, educate, share resources, and inspire action to protect natural resources.

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