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Sen. Shaheen talks about $15 million for PFAS health study, what EPA should do, inflation and COVID

The National Defense Authorization Act passed by the U.S. Senate Wednesday includes an additional $15 million to pay for the continuing PFAS health study established by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire.

Shaheen’s legislation created the first ever national PFAS health study after thousands of people — including children and infants — were exposed to high levels of the dangerous chemicals in drinking water in a city-owned well.

The water was contaminated by firefighting foam used at the former Pease Air Force Base, which is now home to the Pease International Tradeport.

In addition to getting $15 million more for the health study, Shaheen cited a number of other PFAS related provisions in the NDAA:

  • Authorization of $517 million above the president’s budget request for the cleanup of military communities impacted by PFAS.
  • Requirements for the Department of Defense to establish a PFAS task force, complete testing at DOD and National Guard installations within two years and develop a proposed schedule for PFAS remediation.
  • Implementing a temporary moratorium on the incineration of PFAS substances, increased transparency surrounding incineration practices and closure of a loophole that may have allowed the DOD to improperly dispose of PFAS-laden substances by blending it with other fuels.   

"Our families deserve answers about how their health may be impacted from exposure to PFAS, and above all, they deserve peace of mind that when they turn on their faucet, their drinking water is clean and safe,” Shaheen said.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics.

The ATSDR and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are conducting the Pease pilot portion of the health study, recently acknowledged not as many adults and children have signed up for the study as they hoped.

During an interview Wednesday, Shaheen said, “Unfortunately, COVID has disrupted the study like’s it’s disrupted so much of our lives.”

Still, Shaheen said, she feels “pretty good” about the number of adults participating in the study and hopes it will still result in getting families important information about PFAS health effects.

“That in my mind is the real importance of the study,” Shaheen said.

The Portsmouth City Council recently voted to conduct additional testing of its new artificial turf playing field after the manufacturer confirmed there was PFAS in the field.

Asked about her concerns about PFAS in turf fields, Shaheen said, “That’s why we really need this health study.”

Once completed, it can “give us some baseline information on what the health impacts are,” Shaheen said.

“I think the EPA needs to be more aggressive in general in respect to PFAS,” Shaheen said, when asked about the agency's response to PFAS in turf fields.

Shaheen's take on inflation and COVID-19

Shaheen said she understands “why people are concerned” about gas and food prices, because “prices are going up" heading into the holiday season.

She blames the increasing prices on COVID and its impact on the economy.

Shaheen believes officials need to “do everything we can” to reduce COVID cases, including making sure people get vaccinated and get their booster shots, while “addressing some of the misinformation” about the vaccines.

She stressed the need to “get the pandemic behind us” to move the economy forward.