• The aquifers from which the vital liquid is extracted present unhealthy levels of the harmful metalloid

A study published by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that drinking water in California jails and prisons contains potentially dangerous levels of arsenic, according to.

“There has been a lot of work, mainly from journalists and from inmates themselves, pointing to serious environmental threats to prison health, but in reality studies on this are sparse.

This is one of the few studies that documents the structural challenges that continue to affect this basic human right to water on both sides of prison walls,” said Jenny Rempel of the University of California.

Researchers on Rempel’s team analyzed water quality data over 20 years at Kern Valley State Prison and nearby communities in the Central Valley, including Allensworth, McFarland and Delano.

The water in those regions comes from underground aquifers that already naturally contain unhealthy levels of arsenic, and at all sites the study found levels of that element in the water supply that have exceeded established safe limits for months and even years.

Long-term exposure to even small amounts of arsenic in drinking water has been linked to a variety of cancers and other serious health problems.

In 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the maximum permissible level of contamination from 50 to 10 parts per 1,000 million ppb.

The study found that in the four communities considered, arsenic levels have exceeded 10 ppb in the last two decades, sometimes even after the community had received funds from the state to remedy the situation.

“Because funding for water supply and treatment in the United States is expected to come primarily from residents, treatment facilities in rural and low-income areas are more likely to fail to comply with regulations. This is, in part, why people who live in low-income, rural communities in this country tend to have disproportionately higher exposures to contaminated water,” said Alisdair Cohen, author of the article.

In California, the highest incarceration rates are concentrated in a handful of counties in Northern and Central California, including Del Norte, Siskiyou, Shasta Tehama, Lake, Yuba, Kings and Tulare, according to PPI.

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