Half of U.S. Prisons at Risk for PFAS Contamination, Putting Incarcerated Individuals’ Health in Danger

Study finds health risks due to unsafe drinking water in U.S. prisons

A recent study has brought to light that nearly half of U.S. prisons may contain harmful “forever chemicals” in their water supply, potentially putting the health and well-being of incarcerated individuals at risk. The study found that 47% of prison facilities are at risk of PFAS pollution, affecting approximately 990,000 people, including juveniles. Researchers emphasized the vulnerability of incarcerated individuals to PFAS due to limited options for exposure mitigation.

The findings also highlight environmental justice issues, as the overrepresentation of marginalized communities within the prison population means that these communities are disproportionately affected by PFAS contamination. Nicholas Shapiro, a senior author and medical anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the incarcerated population spread across various facilities to being the fifth largest city in the country.

This information is significant as it shows that a large number of prisons are located in areas with potential PFAS contamination, increasing health risks for incarcerated populations who are already in worse health compared to the general population. PFAS contamination is not only a concern within prisons but also a broader threat to U.S. drinking water. The EPA released proposed drinking water standards for six “forever chemicals” last year after years of advocacy from affected communities, scientists, and activists.

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