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Florida Geological Survey - Hazards - Geochemical
Page heading: Geochemical


Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced naturally in the environment. Most of Florida is underlain by a rock unit, the Hawthorn Group, which contains variable amounts of the mineral carbonate fluorapatite. This mineral incorporated uranium (as well as phosphorous and other elements) in the marine environment as it was being deposited. When the uranium undergoes radioactive decay, radon gas (among other daughter elements) is eventually produced. The radon gas itself is radioactive. It becomes a health risk when it is inhaled and radioactive decay occurs while it is in the lungs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has information on the average amount of radon found in homes in Florida by county on their web site: http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html . Additional information about radon may be found at http://www.epa.gov/radon/.

Radon may pose a problem when it enters a home or building. Now that many homes and buildings are well insulated and air-conditioned, radon may enter through plumbing or cracks that develop in the slab or foundation and become trapped and concentrated. When a home is under construction certain measures may be taken that allow radon levels to be lowered if they are found to be a problem when construction is complete. Maps that can be used when deciding whether to incorporate radon resistant construction techniques are available at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/radon/DCA_MAPS.HTM. When buying a home, buyers may request that the structure be tested for radon gas. When concentrations of the gas are high, mitigation procedures may be necessary. Information concerning all aspects of radon, including certified businesses that measure it and mitigate it, may be found at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/radon/index.html


Mercury is a toxic element that probably has both anthropogenic (man made) sources and natural sources in the Florida environment. It is of special concern to pregnant women and young children. Since fish may concentrate mercury from natural waters they are routinely tested, and advisories for their consumption are updated. Information concerning fish and mercury may be found at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/fishconsumptionadvisories/index.html .

Mercury also may be found in fluorescent lamps and other devices such as thermometers and blood pressure monitors. When these items are no longer needed special care must be taken to properly dispose of them or mercury may enter the air and water of Florida’s environment. The following website offers information concerning disposal of mercury-bearing lamps and devices: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm .


Arsenic is a toxic element that has mainly anthropogenic sources in Florida. Cattle-dipping vats were used throughout Florida between 1906 and 1962 and held a solution that contained arsenic. The cattle were dipped in order to eradicate the tick that transmitted a disease called “southern cattle fever”. More information on cattle-dipping vats may be found at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/water/petroleum/watertox/vats.htm .

Pressure treated wood is an additional source of arsenic in Florida’s environment and additional information may be found at: http://www.sis.nlm.nih.gov/enviro/arsenicandhumanhealth.html

Pesticides and herbicides are another source of arsenic in Florida. Information on their safe use may be obtained at: http://www.flaes.org/ . A wealth of information concerning environmentally sound landscaping may be found at: http://hort.ufl.edu/fyn/ .

Last updated: November 10, 2014

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