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From 1947 to 1981, the Stauffer Chemical Company in Tarpon Springs, Florida, made elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore. While the plant was in operation, phosphate slag was transported off-site and used as aggregate in road bedding, road and driveway paving, and in concrete structures. The extent of the distribution could not be determined. Residents in the area expressed concern about possible adverse health effects resulting from exposure to radium and heavy metals leaching from phosphate slag that was used in nearby roads and buildings. Besides radium, other contaminants of concern to residents were arsenic, asbestos, uranium, radon, and ionizing radiation.

There is elevated background radiation from natural radium in phosphate slag and aggregate, but exposures are not expected to result in any adverse health outcomes.

Phosphate slag contains concentrations of metals above background levels. However, based on current epidemiological and medical information the levels are not likely to represent a public health hazard. Combined exposures from roads and driveways are not a health threat. The ATSDR recommends that public health education be provided, to help the public better understand that there is no public health hazard posed by the phosphate slag.


In February 1998, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) received a petition from a Tarpon Springs, Florida, resident. The person requested that the agency investigate health problems that might be associated with exposure to slag materials used in residential areas of Tarpon Springs. Since then, the ATSDR has responded to letters from several other residents. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region IV also requested that the ATSDR review the sampling data taken at several vicinity properties near the Stauffer Superfund site in Tarpon Springs. The EPA asked the ATSDR to review chemical and radiological sampling data of residential slag, to evaluate exposure scenarios, to provide radiological dose estimates, and to make recommendations for protection of public health.

Since receiving letters from concerned Tarpon Springs residents, ATSDR staff members have begun investigating residents' health concerns and possible associations between those concerns and exposures to hazardous substances.

  1. Site Description and History
  2. From 1947 to 1981, the Stauffer Chemical Company (which operated under different ownership until 1960) made elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore using an arc furnace process. The processed ore was shipped off-site to produce agricultural products, food-grade phosphates, and flame retardants. While the chemical plant operated, waste products (i.e., slag) were disposed of on the plant property, shipped off-site by rail, and given to local residents to be used as fill and aggregate.

    The Stauffer plant was added to the EPA Superfund list in 1994 because of pollution on the site. Superfund is a federal program for finding and cleaning up hazardous waste sites in this country. Since 1994, the EPA has been working to clean up the Stauffer site. The EPA is testing and monitoring the soil, water, and air at the site and at vicinity properties to protect nearby residents against health problems that might result from exposure to hazardous waste.

  3. Site Visit
  4. In May 1998, ATSDR staff members visited Tarpon Springs to meet with residents and to gather more information. Staff members addressed residents' questions. ATSDR and EPA Region IV personnel visited several vicinity properties in Tarpon Springs and Holiday, Florida. They saw the Stauffer Chemical Superfund site from the site boundary including the Anclote River. During a boat tour on the Anclote River, the ATSDR and the EPA were shown where slag from the site was used to fill in an inlet on site property.

    In August 1998, EPA Region IV personnel and staff from EPA's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, Alabama, took samples of building materials and roads and performed radiological surveys of several vicinity properties.

  5. Demographics, Land Use and Natural Resources
  6. The City of Tarpon Springs is in Pinellas County, Florida. The community is near the Anclote River, about 1.6 miles east of the Gulf of Mexico. Gulfside Elementary School is directly across the street from the Stauffer site and Tarpon Springs Middle and High Schools are also in close proximity.

    According to 1990 census data (1), 9,231 people live within a one-mile radius of the site. About 97% of the population is white and 2.2% are black, with most being middle income level. A hospital, a nursing home, and a children's group home are within one mile of the site. There are about 100 private wells within this same area. The color maps on the following page give a graphical representation of the demographic data (see figure 1).

  7. Health Outcome Data
  8. Evaluation of available health outcome data did not find any elevated mortality rates for leukemia, bone cancer, or respiratory diseases. Rates for Pasco and Pinellas Counties were below the state averages for both respiratory disease and childhood leukemia and bone cancers.

    Mortality data were analyzed for various respiratory diseases (ICD Codes 460 to 519.9) and for childhood radiogenic cancers (ICD Codes 204 to 204.9) in Florida counties surrounding the Stauffer site. Respiratory diseases were looked at, because of the dusts emitted from Stauffer Chemical when it was operating. The ATSDR used the Wide-ranging ONline Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) system, which is a computer database designed by the Information Resources Management Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Public Health Service. The mortality section of the database provided information for comparing the rates of the county with rates for the state and the rest of the country.

Map of Tarpon Springs Florida with Demographics and Site
Figure 1. Map of Tarpon Springs, Florida with Demographics and Site


Residents from Tarpon Springs, and Holiday, Florida expressed concern about adverse health effects resulting from exposure to radium and heavy metals leaching from phosphate slag that was used in nearby roads and buildings. Besides radium, other contaminants of concern to residents were arsenic, beryllium, uranium, radon, and ionizing radiation.

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