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The Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (Florida HRS) has been petitioned by a community member for an evaluation of the health effects of exposure to sulfur dioxide from the Stauffer Chemical plant in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The petitioner expressed concern that an inadequate evaluation of this contaminant had been conducted in the preliminary public health assessment for the site because air monitoring data had not been provided to Florida BRS.

We evaluated sulfur dioxide as a contaminant of concern in the health assessment based on the data that was available at the time the assessement was written (1). The petitioner and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have provided Florida HRS with additional air monitoring data (2, 3). We have determined that a health consultation to evaluate the air monitoring data is an appropriate response to the request. The interpretation, advice, and recommendations presented in this report are situation-specific and should not be considered applicable to any other situations.

The Stauffer Chemical Company/Tarpon Springs site (Stauffer) is between Anclote Boulevard and the Anclote River, about one mile east of the Gulf of Mexico, in Tarpon Springs, Pinellas County, Florida (Figures 1 and 2). The plant, which extracted elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore, is currently inactive and many buildings and other structures have been dismantled and removed from the site. A skeleton crew, consisting of a manager, four operators and three security cuards, is providing 24-hour security and maintenance of the grounds and remaining equipment.

The 160-acre facility was operated by Victor Chemical Works from 1947 to 1960 when it was purchased by Stauffer Chemical Co. Stauffer operated the plant until it closed in 1981 (4, 5). The facility's ownership has changed several times since then and is currently the Stauffer Management Co., a subsidiary of Zeneca, Inc. (formerly ICI Americas) (6).

The main plant site, as shown in Figure 3, is south and west of Anclote Road. This area originally included the phosphate ore processing and phosphorus production facilities, waste disposal facilities, office and administration buildings, and several railroad spurs used for receipt of raw materials and shipment of products. The area to the north, between Anclote Road and Anclote Boulevard, contains production wells for process water and was also used for storage of crushed sla,, and other waste materials. The railroad lines, many of the buildings, and much of the waste slao, were removed after the plant closed.

According to 1990 census data (7), approximately 14,000 people live within a one mile radius of the site north of the Anclote River and about 4,700 people live within one mile south of the river. The neighborhoods north of the site are lower-middle income while the ones south of the site across the river are middle income. About 100 feet north of the site across Anclote Boulevard are an elementary school and daycare center, and three-quarters of a mile southwest of the site across the Anclote River are a hospital and another daycare center.

Between 1975 and 1979, the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management (DEM) received numerous complaints from local citizens about air pollution from the Stauffer plant (8). Residents near the plant complained of choking, fumes (probably sulfur dioxide) from the plant. One news article and several citizen complaints described white clouds (probably phosphorus pentoxide) emanating from the plant.

In July 1977, an air monitoring station was installed near the southeast comer of the Stauffer plant (Fig. 4). Air samples for sulfur dioxide were collected by 24-hour bubbler and 3-hour continuous monitoring (3). Table 1 below presents the highest sulfur dioxide level measured for each year between 1977 and 1981. Sulfur dioxide levels near Stauffer exceeded the state of Florida standard (8) until 1980 when they began a dramatic decline. It was at about this same time that the Stauffer plant began to close down. Because the air monitoring station is very close to the Stauffer plant (see Figure 4), we believe that the sulfur dioxide levels are representative of those to which people living or working near the plant may have been exposed.

Table 1. Maximum Annual Sulfur Dioxide Level

Table 1.

Human Health Effects at Various Hydrogen Sulfide Concentrations in Air
STD: 260 mg/m3
STD: 1300 mg/m3
YEAR mg/m3 ppm mg/m3 ppm
715 0.28 1877 0.072
1978 907 0.35 1550 0.60
1979 592 0.23 568 0.22
1980 201 0.08 568 0.22
1981 149 0.06 463 0.18
    mg/m3- Micrograms per cubic meter of air
    ppm- Parts per million
    Source: (3,6)

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