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Shaheen, Bipartisan Group of Senators File Amendment to Defense Bill to Require Release of Water Contamination Report

Amendment to defense bill would compel HHS to publish PFAS toxicology reports, after administration officials reportedly blocked its release

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and a bipartisan group of Senators in filing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish unreleased federal reports about widespread water contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The study examining the levels of toxicity of four types of PFAS chemicals is being conducted by HHS's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR. According to POLITICO, the Trump administration hid the existence of these reports from the public and members of Congress for five months. Emails released as the result of a public records request show that a White House official warned the release of the studies would pose a “public relations nightmare.”

The amendment was also filed by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

The Senators’ amendment would require the release of the HHS reports that purportedly increases warnings about human exposure to these PFAS chemicals, which are widely used commercially and which are found in water systems that serve millions of people across the country. The Pentagon has identified 36 U.S. military installations across the country where on-base drinking water contamination from PFAS chemicals exceeds safety levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In addition to requiring the release of the delayed reports, the amendment would require that HHS report to Congress about any changes that were made to the four PFAS reports after January 2018 – when the reports were finalized.

“Communities in New Hampshire and many across the country have been exposed to PFAS chemicals and other harmful emerging contaminants, so it’s imperative that our residents have the information they need about the potential health implications facing their children and families,” said Shaheen. “The Trump administration needs to be transparent with the American people and release these toxicology reports so those who’ve been exposed have all the facts. I fought to establish the first-ever nationwide PFAS health impact study in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act because this is such a critical issue in the Granite State, and I’m grateful for the continued efforts and bipartisan support from Senators in other affected states to move this issue forward. I’ll continue to work across the aisle to help secure the release of these delayed reports.”

Senator Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, successfully added two other critical PFAS-related measures to the defense bill, including the authorization for an additional $10 million for the second year of the first-ever nationwide PFAS health impact study, which Shaheen established in last year’s NDAA. Senator Shaheen also added her bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) to create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems potentially due to exposure from PFAS chemicals.

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health impact of emerging contaminants in water supplies. In addition to establishing the PFAS health impact study and securing the necessary funding in the government spending bill that was signed into law in March, Shaheen also included specific language in this year’s defense bill to streamline the process of transferring funds so the study can move forward expeditiously. Because of Shaheen’s efforts, the Pease International Tradeport will be included in the multi-site health impact study, as well as a separate, pilot study.