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Nuclear reactors in Florida: Are they as safe as we thought?

According to a Baby Teeth and Cancer Case study, federally-acceptable levels of radioactive emissions from nuclear plants are responsible for rising numbers of cancer cases in South Florida. The researchers of the five year study used baby teeth to measure the levels of Strontium-90 (a nuclear by-product and known cancer-causing agent) present in the environment. Also known as Sr-90, it is chemically similar to calcium and tends to deposit in bones after entering the body.

The study was conducted in the state of Florida and included the Turkey Point and Saint Lucie reactors. Results showed South Florida in particular to be among the worst in the nation in terms of higher risk of certain cancers. Children are at higher risk due to their faster growth rate and development of their neurological system.

Turkey Point Nuclear Reactor
(south of Miami, FL)
St. Lucie Nuclear Reactor
(north of West Palm Beach, FL)

The following summarize some of the results:

  • The average levels of the Sr-90 carcinogen in baby teeth have risen 37% from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.
  • The average level of Sr-90 in baby teeth is twice as high in children diagnosed with cancer compared to children without cancer.
  • The level of radioactivity in southeast Florida groundwater, the area’s primary drinking supply, is the largest source of Sr-90 in baby teeth. Water samples taken within 20 miles of the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors had the highest levels of radiation.
  • The study suggests the rise in Sr-90 levels in drinking water and baby teeth is responsible for a 32.5% rise in cancer rates in children under 10 in southeast Florida counties, which are closest to the nuclear plants. The national average of childhood cancer rates was only 10.8% over the same period.
  • The highest levels of Sr-90 were found in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties (those closest to the Turkey Point and St. Lucie reactors).

Professor Jerry Brown, a founding professor of FIU, was one of the principal investigators of this study whose results were released April 9, 2003. He noted that drinking water that has gone through reverse osmosis or is distilled can get some of the Strontium, heavy metals, and other larger molecules out of the water. As this does not help solve the problem, hopefully a continued push for renewable energy sources will decrease these environmental health problems. Solar energy, for example, is greatly underused in South Florida. Current technology makes this option completely viable for future use if one is willing to take on the extra cost. Until that day comes, however, what cost are we willing to pay with our own health?

For additional information about this story, visit the Radiation Public Health Project.
For additional information on Strontium-90, visit the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To locate Florida’s reactors visit the
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
For up-to-date Environmental News, Check out these websites: Cry of the Water,  Envirolink and Environmental News Network.


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The Kids Ecology Corps is a program of Partners in Action, Inc., a 501(c) (3) nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1981, providing educational, cultural and leadership experience to young people encouraging immediate, positive, environmental action. And, continuous, determined action is making Environmental Harmony an idea whose time has come.
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