Communities of color disproportionately exposed to PFAS in drinking water

May 15, 2023

People who live in communities with higher proportions of Black and Hispanic/Latino residents are more likely to be exposed to harmful levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their water supplies than people living in other communities, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Silent Spring Institute. The researchers link this finding to the disproportionate siting of sources of PFAS pollution—such as major manufacturers, airports, military bases, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills—near watersheds serving these communities.

The study was published online May 15, 2023, in Environmental Science & Technology.

“Our work suggests that the sociodemographic groups that are often stressed by other factors, including marginalization, racism, and poverty, are also more highly exposed to PFAS in drinking water,” said first author Jahred Liddie, a PhD student in population health sciences at Harvard Chan School and former research assistant at Silent Spring. “Environmental justice is a major emphasis of the current administration and this work shows it should be considered in the upcoming regulations for PFAS in drinking water.”

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Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Resources or References

Liddie, J.M., L.A. Schaider, E.M. Sunderland. 2023. Sociodemographic Factors Are Associated with the Abundance of PFAS Sources and Detection in U.S. Community Water Systems. Environmental Science & Technology. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c07255