Shaheen-Gardner Bill to Address Health Concerns Regarding Firefighters’ Exposure to PFAS through Protective Gear Clears Key Committee HurdleNovember 13, 2019
**Shaheen has Spearheaded Efforts in Congress to Remediate, Research & Respond to PFAS Exposure**
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) bipartisan bill, the Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act, unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bipartisan legislation would take important steps to examine and address health concerns regarding firefighters’ occupational exposure to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals through their personal protective equipment. Shaheen unveiled the legislation in September during a roundtable discussion at the Goffstown Fire Department.
Specifically, the legislation would authorize a comprehensive study of the personal protective equipment worn by firefighters to determine the identity and concentration of PFAS, as well as firefighters’ risk of exposure to these chemicals from the gear. The legislation would also establish a federal grant program to advance the development of safe alternatives to PFAS chemicals in personal protective equipment. In Senate-approved funding legislation, Shaheen successfully added $2 million for PFAS personal protective equipment research.
“Firefighters face daunting, and too often, life-threatening challenges on the job every day. The safety and condition of their own protective gear should never be one of them,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m very pleased by the bipartisan support for this bill, and as a whole, the bipartisan effort to prioritize a federal response to PFAS contamination in our communities. This is an issue impacting Granite Staters, Coloradans and Americans across the country, and it deserves the immediate and full attention of Congress. Firefighters, service members, veterans and all those who have been in contact with PFAS chemicals deserve the information they need to understand the health implications related to their exposure, and I won’t stop working until that promise is fulfilled.”
“Our firefighters and emergency responders in Colorado and around the country risk everything to protect our communities, and it is our duty to make sure we have accurate research to understand and mitigate any dangerous PFAS exposure during emergency response and training activities,” said Senator Gardner. “I’m proud the Committee approved my bipartisan legislation with Senator Shaheen, which will authorize a study through the National Institute of Standards and Technology to examine the concentration of PFAS in firefighters’ protective gear and take steps to reduce or eliminate the possibility of any dangerous PFAS exposure.”
“The New Hampshire firefighters are pleased to learn that the Senate Commerce Committee agrees with Senator Shaheen; that our protective gear that we rely on should not make us sick. We look forward to working with Senator Shaheen and making certain the bill passes Congress and addresses these pressing concerns,” said Bill McQuillen, President of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire (PFFNH).
“The IAFC supports S. 2525 Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act of 2019,” said Chief Gary Ludwig, President and Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “Firefighter safety is of the utmost importance and this bill will take us a step closer to ensuring firefighters can do their jobs without worrying they are experiencing chemical exposure from the equipment they use every day. We urge Congress to consider and pass S. 2525 Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act of 2019 this year.”
“The hazards of PFAS are well-known. The link between these toxic chemicals and cancer is particularly concerning for fire fighters, who experience cancer at higher rates than the general population,” stated Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of International Association of Fire Fighters representing 320,000 professional fire fighters. “I commend Senator Shaheen for her work on this important issue and continued commitment to protecting the health and safety of fire fighters and the public.”
Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. The Senate-passed defense bill includes a significant package of legislation, cosponsored by Shaheen, aimed at combating PFAS exposure. This PFAS package includes Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, which would expedite analysis of water contaminants like PFAS and provide support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials. Shaheen also successfully added her legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to the defense bill that would confront occupational exposure to PFAS— the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act. The bipartisan bill would require the Department of Defense to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters. Shaheen and Murkowski previously called on federal health agencies to prioritize studies on the health effects of firefighters exposed to PFAS. In September, Shaheen sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging the agency to develop health monitoring protocols for medical care for children and adults exposed to PFAS.
Additionally, Shaheen secured a provision that would ban the Department of Defense from procuring firefighting foam that contains PFAS after October 1, 2022, and would prohibit its use in the military after October 1, 2023. Shaheen also successfully authorized $10 million to continue the PFAS health impact study she established in the FY2018 NDAA. Shaheen has repeatedly secured the necessary authorization and funding to implement the study, which because of Shaheen’s efforts, recently kicked off Pease and is actively seeking participants.
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