BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. —  For Fight For Zero non-profit founder Stel Bailey, it was no coincidence that several family members got a rare form of cancer. Now she's dedicated to fighting for zero contaminates in the water, soil, and air.

What You Need To Know

  • UF study looking at PFAS contamination, environmental factors

  • There is a concern PFAS may be increasing cancer risk in Brevard County

  • UF study will be completed in 2023

“My brother had Hodgkin's lymphoma, I had Hodgkin's lymphoma, and my father had multiple myeloma, and those are all blood cancers,” Bailey explained.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving $800,000 to the University of Florida to research how environmental factors, like flooding during hurricanes, potentially increase risk of human exposure to water contaminants, and aso how those contaminants travels through these environments. 

UF is specifically studying per- and polyfluoroalkyl contamination, also known as PFAS contamination. 

“Can natural events such as like, extreme weather floods when hurricanes come, be a way of these chemicals to be transported, and being transported from these sites, if they are reaching communities,” said Principal Investigator Katherine Deliz Quiñones with the PFAS Coastal Resiliency Study. 

Co-Investigator Eric Coker says PFAS are found in everyday products like water repellent fabrics or non-stick pans.

“If they are persistent in the environment, that means people will come into contact with them eventually, whether it's through water, drinking, consumption, recreational use,” Coker said. "There's some evidence that shows they can cause cancer."

Stel Bailey says Brevard County is the main focus of the study because it's considered a hot spot. Her story is similar to other cancer survival stories in the county.

“We have Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and we have NASA," she said. "And we know that all three of those locations have used this firefighting foam that the chemicals are in.” ​

According to Quiñones and Coker, the study will be completed in 2023 and the results will provide more localized solutions and answer the question: does flooding exacerbate exposure risks or does it reduce it?

According to EPA's website, PFAS can cause effects on the immune system and cancer. Duke University, Iowa State University, Texas A&M University and University of California were also the recipients of a grant, which totaled $4 million.