The Prominence of PFAS in POC and Low-income Communities

Updated: May 22

Written by Caitlin Rissmiller

Between military bases and isolated bucolic towns, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, or PFAS, can be found within many of the United States’ water sources. However, low income communities and areas with higher numbers of people of color are disproportionately affected by PFAS. Governmental negligence has left most of the US to suffer the effects of PFAS in drinking water, but studies conducted in non-military base sites point to a commonality of dangerous levels of PFAS in marginalized communities.

A study of PFAS by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that in comparison to predominantly white and middle/upper income communities, marginalized communities are significantly more likely to be impacted by PFAS in their drinking water supplies. Northeastern University conducted a study which examined the geographic proximity (within 5 miles) of low income and predominantly POC communities to PFAS contaminated water sources. The reality of proximity of POC communities to PFAS contaminated sources was 22% higher than their expected levels. For low income communities, the proximity to contaminated water sources was 15% higher than their expected levels. An example of these communities is Flint, Michigan, where the water supply is acutely impacted by PFAS. Flint is home to a majority