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

Half of US Prisons at Risk for PFAS Pollution, Highlighting Environmental Justice Issues and Health Disparities in the Justice System

A recent study has brought to light that nearly half of US prisons may have harmful “forever chemicals” in their water supply, posing potential health risks and raising concerns about human rights and health disparities in the justice system. The study found that 47% of prison facilities are at risk of PFAS pollution, affecting around 990,000 individuals, including juveniles. Researchers emphasized the vulnerability of incarcerated individuals to PFAS due to limited options for exposure mitigation.

The findings highlight environmental justice issues, pointing out the overrepresentation of marginalized communities within the prison population. In fact, researchers 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. Last year, the EPA released proposed drinking water standards for six “forever chemicals,” following years of advocacy from affected communities, scientists, and activists. The study’s findings underscore the need for continued efforts to address this issue and ensure that all individuals have access to safe drinking water.

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