DeSantis slammed after backing use of radioactive waste in road study

‘DeSantis is paving the way to a toxic legacy generations of Floridians will have to grapple with’

Gustaf Kilander
Friday 30 June 2023 15:31 BST
Related video: Ron DeSantis visits US-Mexico border

Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis is under fire after giving the go-ahead to the study of “radioactive” mining waste in the use of road-building projects.

On Thursday, the Florida governor greenlit a bill adding phosphogypsum, which has been linked to cancer, to a list of materials that can be studied by the Florida Department of Transportation and used in road construction in the state.

Tampa-based fertilizer company Mosaic lobbied for the bill, in a move that it claims will allow scientific study of the material – although critics do not agree.

“We’re thankful the state sees the value in following the science so that we can all learn more about the beneficial reuse of phosphogypsum,” Mosaic spokesperson Jackie Barron told The Tampa Bay Times. “This allows the state to move forward with fact-finding and research.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), phosphogypsum is the waste that is left behind after processing phosphate rock to make fertilizer.

“Most of the naturally-occurring uranium, thorium and radium found in phosphate rock ends up in this waste. Uranium and thorium decay to radium and radium decays to radon, a radioactive gas. Because the wastes are concentrated, phosphogypsum is more radioactive than the original phosphate rock,” it said.

The EPA told CBS that phosphogypsum was a potentially cancer-causing material.

Florida and Caribbean director and lawyer of the Center for Biological Diversity, Elise Bennett, described the bill as being a “reckless handout to the fertilizer industry”.

“Gov DeSantis is paving the way to a toxic legacy generations of Floridians will have to grapple with,” Ms Bennett said in a statement, according to CBS News. “This opens the door for dangerous radioactive waste to be dumped in roadways across the state, under the guise of a so-called feasibility study that won’t address serious health and safety concerns.”

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