Air toxics (also called hazardous air pollutants) are those air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive and birth defects. The degree to which a toxic air pollutant affects a person's health depends on many factors including the quantity and toxicity of the pollutant to which the person is exposed as well as the duration and frequency of exposure.
Air toxics can come from natural sources (e.g., radon gas coming up from the ground) or man-made sources such as motor vehicles and industrial processes. Air toxics that deposit onto soil or into lakes and streams can affect ecological systems and eventually human health through consumption of contaminated food.
The federal Clean Air Act targets 188 toxic air pollutants for emissions reduction. Examples include benzene, which is found in gasoline; perchloroethylene, which is emitted from some dry cleaning facilities; and methylene chloride, which is used as a solvent and paint stripper by a number of industries. Other examples are dioxin, asbestos, and metals such as mercury, chromium, and lead. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection ensures that industries in the state comply with the limits on toxic air pollutant emissions established under the Clean Air Act.
Last updated: September 11, 2013