What We’re Reading: Facebook Receiving Sensitive Medical Information; Dangerous PFAS Levels; Increase in Abortions

Tracking tool Meta Pixel was found on 33 of the top 100 US hospitals’ websites; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new guidance in response to dangerous PFAS levels in drinking water; the US abortion rate rose by 7% between 2017 and 2020.

Tracking Tool Sends Patients’ Health Data From Hospital Websites to Facebook

A tracking tool on many hospital websites has been collecting private health information on patients’ medical conditions, appointments, and prescriptions, and sending it to Facebook, according to a report by The Markup. The tracker, called Meta Pixel, was found on 33 of the top 100 US hospitals’ websites, including John Hopkins Hospital, UCLA Reagan Medical Center, and New York Presbyterian Hospital. When a patient clicked a certain button to schedule an appointment, the tracker sent data connected to an IP address to Facebook. Meta Pixel was also found to be installed in password-protected patient portals of 7 health systems.

EPA Announces Guidance, Grant to Control PFAS Levels in Drinking Water

As reported by The Washington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, cosmetics, and food packaging are more dangerous than previously thought. In response, the EPA released new guidance requiring local officials in every state to notify citizens of contamination or install water filters, however the federal government does not currently regulate PFAS. On top of this, the agency is also making $1 billion available through grant funding to help communities on the frontlines of PFAS contamination, and preparing mandatory standards on water utilities to regulate the 2 most common PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

Report Shows Increase in Abortions Between 2017 and 2020

Reversing a 3-decade decline in US abortion rates, the number of abortions increased between 2017 and 2020, The New York Times reported. As of 2020, 1 in 5 pregnancies, or 20.6%, were terminated via abortion, compared with 18.4% in 2017. These findings were published by the Guttmacher Institute, which found that 930,160 abortions were performed in 2020, an increase of more than 67,000 from 2017. Per 1000 women aged between 15 and 44, the abortion rate rose by 7% during that time period. The report also showed that abortion rates increased more in the West and Midwest United States compared with the South and Northeast regions.