Detention jail bars

Immigrants in U.S. Detention Exposed to Hazardous Disinfectants Every Day – Scientific American

by Matthew Phelan, Scientific American

“Every day crowded cells holding people at an immigration detention facility in Florida have been doused with caustic disinfectants that have caused breathing problems and bleeding, according to reports from the detainees. The disinfectants contain two chemical compounds that scientific research has implicated in long-term damage to human cells and—in animals—to reproductive health.

On August 26 a complaint filed on behalf of detainees at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida, which holds people for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), cited ongoing use of a ‘highly toxic chemical disinfectant,’ sometimes multiple times per day, alongside ‘living conditions which are unsanitary, hostile, and unsafe.’ The complaint was filed by several civil rights groups with ICE, the Department of Homeland Security (ICE’s parent agency) and the Glades County Sheriff’s Office. It is the second such complaint charging unsafe use of this type of disinfectant at the facility this year. Last year these same issues at Glades were also part of civil rights complaints and sworn testimony submitted for a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.


‘The chemical is sprayed every day,’ one person reported anonymously to a hotline run by the nonprofit Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice). ‘Eyes burn. People cough.’ Lily Hartmann, a human rights advocate at AI Justice, says that names of detainees in these complaints are often withheld to protect them from retaliation, including harassment and physical abuse. But one recent Glades detainee, Lunise Clerveaux, did go on the record in the August 26 complaint to say the spraying produced a ‘cloud’ that ‘turns the air gray’ as it lingers in the facility’s holding cells.”

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