The populations most vulnerable to adverse health effects due to PFAS exposure include pregnant women, the young, the elderly, people with preexisting medical conditions, and living near multiple sources of pollution.
Across the country, local and state leaders have declared racism a public health crisis or emergency. Tulane University of Public Health and Tropical Medicine found that “The accumulation of daily stressors associated with exposure to racism and discrimination can cause toxic stress beginning at an early age.”
Oil and gas activities heavily impact disadvantaged communities, as wells are often located in or adjacent to low-income communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color. Already-existing health disparities combine with proximity to oil and gas operations to impose disproportionate health burden on these populations.
The data suggest that PFAS use in fracking imposes disproportionate impacts on populations of people of color, low-income communities, and those living in tribal regions, raising concerns about environmental justice. We see two areas of concern in particular.
First, the map above shows over 50 of these wells are located in five tribal regions of the Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas (OTSAs), where tribal governments retain significant authority.
Secondly, the census blocks with PFAS wells are 32% non-white. As a point of comparison, the population of Texas, the state with the highest concentration of PFAS wells, is 21% nonwhite, according to the US Census Bureau.
“It’s troubling to see the locations of oil and gas wells in which evidence shows companies used toxic PFAS or PFAS precursors,” said report author Dusty Horwitt. “FracTracker Alliance’s map increases the urgency for federal and state officials to determine the extent of PFAS use in oil and gas extraction and to ensure that people are protected.”