Study reveals health risks from unsafe drinking water in U.S. prisons

Half of Prisons Across US at Risk of PFAS Contamination, Highlighting Health Disparities and Environmental Justice Concerns

A recent report by Sharon Udasin for The Hill has shed light on a concerning issue within the U.S. justice system: nearly half of prisons may be facing exposure to harmful “forever chemicals” in their water supply. This revelation has raised concerns about health disparities and human rights issues within the justice system, as well as environmental justice concerns.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, 47% of prison facilities are at risk of PFAS pollution, affecting around 990,000 individuals, including juveniles. The study highlighted the vulnerability of incarcerated individuals to PFAS contamination due to limited options for mitigating exposure.

The overrepresentation of marginalized communities within the prison population underscores this issue’s broader implications for environmental justice. Researchers have compared the incarcerated population to the fifth-largest city in the United States in terms of population size.

This significant number of U.S. prisons located in areas likely contaminated with PFAS compounds heightens the health risks faced by incarcerated populations, who are already in poorer health compared to the general population. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed drinking water standards for six “forever chemicals,” including PFAS, after years of advocacy by affected communities, scientists, and environmental activists. This underscores the broader threat that PFAS poses to U.S. drinking water and the urgent need to address this issue to protect public health.

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