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Here’s a reality check: the water you’re sipping on might not be as clean as you think. A new study has found that communities with larger Black and Hispanic populations face a higher risk of exposure to hazardous ‘forever chemicals‘ in their drinking water.
Source: PBS NewsHour/Youtube
Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the study unraveled that the increased exposure risk results from the unequal placement of Pollution sources close to watersheds catering to these communities. Talk about an unfair deal!
Industrial manufacturers, airports, military bases, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills are often the culprits, discharging per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Jahred Liddie, a Ph.D. student at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and the study’s first author, highlighted that marginalized communities, often burdened by racism and poverty, face higher exposure to PFAS. Stressing the importance of Environmental justice, he argued that it should be a central consideration in future regulations for PFAS in drinking water.
But what makes these PFAS, or ‘forever chemicals,’ so bad? They’re known for their resilience, persisting in both the environment and our bodies. Moreover, they’ve been connected to various illnesses, including cancer. Scary.
The Harvard team gathered data from 7,873 community water systems across 18 states, examining over 44,000 samples collected between January 2016 and August 2022. They found that the detection of PFAS had a direct relationship with the number of PFAS sources and the racial demographics served by the water system.
Moreover, each additional polluting site in a community’s watershed was associated with significant increases in notorious PFAS types, PFOA, and PFOS levels.
Elsie Sunderland, a Harvard professor of environmental chemistry and the study’s senior author, expressed concern about these findings. She emphasized that these marginalized populations are more susceptible to health risks, making the need for effective regulation and access to safe drinking water even more vital in these vulnerable communities.
Now, here’s where we all come in. Let’s use this information as fuel to spark change. Raise awareness, engage with your local policymakers, and insist on stricter regulations for water pollution. We can all play a part in ensuring access to clean and safe water for everyone. After all, isn’t that what Environmental justice is all about?
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