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Florida Geological Survey - Florida Hazards: Geochemical Hazards

Radon

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. A phosphate mineral which incorporates uranium from the marine environment into its structure as it is being deposited. When the uranium in the phosphate 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


Arsenic

Arsenic is a toxic element which can be introduced into the environment by natural processes, anthropogenic activities or from human activities which cause the release of naturally occurring arsenic. The following are some common sources of arsenic:

  • Cattle-dipping vats
    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
    Pressure treated wood using chromated copper arsenic 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
    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/.
  • Chicken and turkey feed
    Arsenic has been used as a feed additive for chickens which results in the chicken manure containing arsenic which was then used as a fertilizer on crops and orchards.

Most of the above activities have been phased out or ceased altogether, however, the arsenic introduced by them remains in the environment. A comprehensive assessment of anthropogenic arsenic sources within the State of Florida was conducted by the Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management (Solo-Gabriele et al., 2003)

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Last updated: November 10, 2014

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