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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.

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Environmental Toxicology Program

Environmental Health

Major Projects of Environmental Toxicology 

In 1999, the Florida Department of Health in Duval County (DOH-Duval) initiated an Environmental Toxicology Program that has been instrumental in identifying hazardous substances from waste sites and other sources of pollution present in the environment.

The Environmental Toxicology Program's primary goal is to prevent adverse health effects resulting from exposure to environmental hazards that may diminish the quality of life for citizens of Duval County. In addition, the program strives to increase residents' knowledge and understanding of the health effects that may result from exposure to hazardous substances.

Some projects of this program include addressing community concerns related to exposure to the City of Jacksonville’s ash sites and other national priority waste sites such as old wood treatment facilities or industrial sites.

The program also played a vital role in evaluation of fish consumption safety and issuing health advisories for fish caught near hazardous waste sites.

The program monitors the reports for algal blooms in St. Johns River in Duval County and provides safety tips to prevent exposure to blue-green algae and their toxins.

Other projects include asthma awareness outreach and education related to exposure to environmental contaminants and development of Environmental Toxicology & Medicine curricula for community residents and health care providers serving patients living near contaminated sites.

Please visit the following websites for:
General information related to the hazardous waste site health risk assessments.
Information on general asthma-related environmental issues.
Information related to fish consumption and its safety.

Study on Exposure to Mercury in Fish 

The Florida Department of Health in Duval County (DOH in Duval) Environmental Health participated in the study to assess mercury exposure among women living in Duval County. Phase I of the study was conducted during the summer of 2009 and consisted of gathering baseline information regarding hair mercury levels, fish consumption patterns, and mercury exposure awareness among Duval County women of child-bearing age. Phase II of the study involved a 2010 survey of women’s health providers about the availability and delivery of mercury educational materials to their clients.

The results of the study indicated that awareness about mercury exposure among women is low. Only 63 percent women surveyed reported having knowledge of the association between mercury and fish consumption. Awareness was even lower among pregnant women surveyed, with only 57 percent reporting knowledge of this association. Furthermore, of the women’s health providers surveyed, only 61 percent reported providing education about mercury exposure to their patients. One of the barriers to education that was identified by providers is a lack of clear, consistent materials.
For details of this study and the results see the publication titled Mercury exposure education provided by women’s health clinics in Duval County, Florida (580 KB PDF).

Environmental Toxicology & Medicine Program 

The Environmental Toxicology and Medicine Program was developed under the ATSDR/CDC-funded Racial and Ethnic Environmental Approaches to Community Health (REEACH) Project, in partnership with Florida A&M University (FAMU).

The main objective of this project was to address the need for environmental toxicology educational programs that address the health impacts of local contamination sources.

The Community Toxicology Curriculum was developed with assistance from local community leaders to inform and educate the lay community about the link between environmental exposures and human health. Workshops were held in several impacted communities where the majority of participants strongly agreed that this curriculum is a useful tool for promoting awareness of potential environmental risks in their community.

The Environmental Medicine Curriculum for health care providers is focused on the signs and symptoms associated with exposure to chemical contaminants known to have been found at waste disposal sites in Duval County. The DOH-Duval held several Environmental Medicine workshops for local health care providers who highly praised the usefulness of the presented information and its applicability to their practices. Moreover, the health care providers were very complementary of provided handouts, especially the DOH-Duval developed Environmental Medicine Guidebook.