Will detained immigrant children have safe drinking water?

Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, some military bases are being considered as detention centers for immigrant children. But these sites may have drinking water contaminated with perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs—toxic chemicals that can be especially hazardous for kids.

Xindi Hu, a postdoctoral fellow in environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a June 28, 2018 article in Popular Science that even if a military site doesn’t test positive for PFAS contamination, that doesn’t mean the water is safe—only that PFASs aren’t present at levels above detection limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She said there’s recent evidence of health risks from PFASs at exposures well below EPA limits.

Used in products ranging from nonstick pans to flame-retardant carpets, PFASs are a particular problem on military bases, where PFAS-based firefighting foams are used in training exercises. PFASs have been linked with increased risk of liver, kidney, and thyroid problems, some cancers, infertility in women, developmental issues in fetuses and infants, and, in children, lowered immune response to vaccinations.

Read the Popular Science article: Immigrant children in U.S. detention camps could face yet another health hazard: contaminated water

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Health risks of widely used chemicals may be underestimated (Harvard Chan School news)

PFCs, chemicals widespread in environment, linked to lowered immune response to childhood vaccinations (Harvard Chan School release)