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‘Forever Chemicals’ Presence in Drinking Water Threatens Health in US Prisons

US prisons were found 'Forever Chemicals' in their water supply

United States: About half of the states in the US may present arsenic “forever chemicals” in their water supply that, unfortunately, may put the health of human beings and their rights in prisons in jeopardy.

The debate to push for a more effective system for water quality monitoring and conservation has been going on, especially in rural areas and economically disadvantaged communities.

However, recently, the latest research has included prisons and detention houses, and it has concluded that those are also the areas of concern.

US prisons water found to be contaminated by PFAS

According to a recent publication in the American Journal of Public Health, there are more than 47 percent of the prisons in country which are situated in a watershed region are said to be contaminated mostly due to the chemicals ‘forever chemicals,‘ known as PFAS.

As there is limited water testing, less than 5 percent of the facilities that are in the watershed are already reported to carry nonbiodegradable molecules; nevertheless, the study showed that the true number is likely to be the highest.

The imprisoned populations are particularly at risk for toxic exposure from drinking water.

Their already worse health will amplify and have more devastating effects on their health compared to the free population.

Besides, they are often racial minorities and LGBT+ members. As a result, pre-existing health disparities may be exacerbated.

Nicholas Shapiro, senior author, medical anthropologist, and an assistant professor at the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA, said, “If you think of the incarcerated population as a city spread out over this vast archipelago of carceral facilities, it would be the fifth largest city in the country, with potentially very high levels of toxicants in its water and no ability to mitigate exposure,” as reported.

What are PFAS?

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, often abbreviated as PFAS, are a group of over 12,000 man-made chemicals that humans have become exposed to since the 1940s, and these chemicals include Teflon cooking pans, firefighting foams, water-proof cosmetics, shampoos, electronics, food packages, and many.

PFAS are a class of persistent nonbiodegradable organic compounds produced during countless activities. They are released into the environment, where they accumulate by bio accretion and thus lead to several health problems.

It is terrible news for animals and people because they contain a bond between carbon and fluorine, which is the strongest in nature. Because they do not break down, the harm may be building up in the tissues of animals and people over time, and we are only beginning to understand it.

Unlike any of the natural bonds in nature, they have an intrinsic characteristic of a covalent bond between carbon and fluorine atoms, which is beyond destruction, and they can accumulate in the tissues of people and animals over time and cause irreversible damage which scientists are just beginning to understand the effects of.

Prevalence of PFAS in prison facilities – Reports

By processing and analyzing this data, it has been concluded that 310 or 5 percent of the carceral facilities were found to be within a watershed, or situated at a lower elevation. As per the reports, under 150 thousand people, including least 2200 kids that are under the age of 18, live in those jails, reported.

Almost half the population (47 percent) has at least one PFAS hot spot in the same watershed as the facility and a higher ground altitude than the facility, including 56 percent of juvenile prisons.

This prison system caters to an average of 990,000 inmates, 12,8,00 of whom are juveniles.

The prevailingly large number of these people, 890,000, are behind bars, and they are placed in state and county-level institutions.

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