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Health & Safety  
Beaches Seafood


Continuing Impacts

Tar Ball on the beach

Tar Ball on the beach


Some beaches in Northwest Florida will continue to see isolated oil impacts that are influenced by natural tides and varying weather conditions. These impacts will consist mainly of scattered tar balls, but may also be buried oil that may become exposed in the sand along the shoreline.

To Avoid Potential Health Impacts:

  • Avoid swimming in or near visible oil or tar balls.
  • Avoid touching tar balls that may wash ashore or touching areas of exposed buried oil within the sand.
  • If you touch oil product or tar balls, wash the residue from your skin with grease-cutting dishwashing detergent and water. Brief skin contact is not considered a medical emergency, but can result in skin irritation if not removed.
  • It is always recommended to avoid contact with dead or dying fish or other ill-appearing aquatic life.


Based on analysis by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) the most recent data have indicated that swimming in the Gulf or visiting the beach poses no risk to human health associated with oil spill contaminants. All sampling data conducted and analyzed in Florida is compared to the DOH human health screening levels adopted by the state of Florida. Human health screening levels for chemicals of concern are set for either water or sediment below which there is no significant risk for long-term human health effects. All data can be viewed on the Beach Health Results website.

In addition, all sampling data collected through September 2010 that was conducted and analyzed in Florida registered below levels of concern according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) human health benchmarks. A human health benchmark is a chemical concentration, specific to either water or sediment, above which there is the possibility of harm or risk to the humans or animals in the environment.

For more information, see Sampling & Monitoring Data, the Beach Health Results website, the federal health and safety information or the Florida Department of Health.



Fisherman with fish

Gulf Coast Fisherman with the catch of the day.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) is responsible for testing seafood harvests from the Gulf of Mexico to ensure they are safe to eat. Laboratory testing shows that Florida seafood products are safe and plentiful and have not been affected by the oil spill. 

The DACS Division of Food Safety has screened more than 200 seafood samples, including finfish, shrimp, crabs, lobsters and oysters. Less than 11 percent were found to have traces of possible oil contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). All findings have been less than 1/1000th of the FDA's levels of concern. 

With $10 million in additional funding over the next three years, the DACS Division of Food Safety will enhance the capabilities of its laboratories to conduct seafood inspections in an effort to further restore public confidence in the safety of Gulf of Mexico seafood.  With this funding, routine testing for PAHs, dispersants and metals will assure the safety of Florida's seafood for several years to come. 

Florida Seafood Surveillance Samples – information and data on seafood samples collected and analyzed in Florida from the end of August 2010 - February 14, 2011.

Summary of Florida PAH Analyses for Surveillance Samples – information and data on seafood samples collected and analyzed in Florida August 2010.



Important Phone Numbers

  • Claims
    (800) 916-4893
  • Report Oil
    (800) 320-0519
  • Environment/Community Hotline
    (866) 448-5816

  • Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center
    (713) 323-1670
  • DEP Press Office
    (850) 245-2112
  • News Archive

Last updated: March 15, 2011

   3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 49   Tallahassee, Florida 32399 | 850-245-2118 (phone) / 850-245-2128 (fax)  
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