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

A recent study has revealed that nearly half of U.S. prisons are at risk of PFAS pollution, affecting around 990,000 individuals, including juveniles. This news has sparked concerns about health disparities and human rights issues within the justice system. The vulnerability of incarcerated individuals to PFAS contamination was highlighted by researchers due to the limited options for mitigating exposure.

Incarcerated populations are already in poorer health compared to the general population, and the significant number of U.S. prisons located in areas likely contaminated with PFAS compounds further exacerbates this issue. Environmental justice concerns have also been raised, as marginalized communities are overrepresented within the prison population.

Nicholas Shapiro, a senior author and medical anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared the incarcerated population to the fifth-largest city in the United States, highlighting the disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities. The 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.

By Samantha Jones

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