Shaheen Introduces New Legislation to Provide Blood Testing for Service Members & Their Families Exposed to PFAS Contamination

June 09, 2020

**Shaheen established the PFAS health impact study in the fiscal year 2018 annual defense bill** 

**Shaheen fought for Pease to serve as a model site for nationwide PFAS health impact study** 

**Shaheen successfully included ban on PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, continued funding for health impact study and added her bipartisan legislation to expedite analysis of water contaminants in 2020 annual defense bill**

(Washington, D.C.) –  U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced new legislation that would provide blood testing for service members during their annual periodic health assessment (PHA) and for former service members if they were stationed at one of the more than 600 military installations contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Shaheen’s legislation – the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act – would also allow for dependents of a service member who is or was stationed at an installation affected by PFAS contamination to get a PFAS blood test covered under TRICARE – the military health insurance.

PFAS chemicals, like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have emerged as widespread contaminants in the drinking water sources of military bases across the country and are tied to serious illness and health effects. The Pease International Tradeport formerly served as an Air Force base and experienced considerable drinking water contamination from PFAS chemicals. These emerging contaminants have been found in the drinking water of 600 military installations nationwide. The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), annual defense legislation, included Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – the Protect Military Firefighters from PFAS Act – which requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military fighters. The PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act would afford the same opportunity to service members, both current and former, and their families to have their blood tested if they have been stationed at bases with known or suspected PFAS contamination. 

 

“The well-being of our service members is paramount, and as they’re occupationally more likely to be exposed to these harmful chemicals, every effort should be made to track and safeguard their health,” said Shaheen. “Providing service members with access to blood tests will also help inform policies to assist those who’ve been impacted by contamination. As the health effects of PFAS chemicals are studied, it’s critical that we do our due diligence to provide the information that service members and their families need to be fully informed about their exposure and health. Military families sacrifice a great deal for our country so we owe them the best care available and the full scope of resources they need to understand and protect their health.”

Specifically, the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act would:

  • Require PFAS blood testing for service members: Shaheen’s bill would require DOD to provide PFAS blood testing of a service member during their annual PHA if it is determined they were stationed at one of the more than 600 military installations contaminated by PFAS.  This information would be required to be recorded in the service member’s medical record and added to a registry. 
  • Make available PFAS blood testing for military families: Shaheen’s legislation allows for dependents of a service member who was stationed at a PFAS contaminated base to elect to get a PFAS blood test covered under TRICARE—the military health insurance.  It would also require DOD to cover the cost of a former service member and their family to elect to get a PFAS blood test, if they are no longer covered under TRICARE, but were stationed at PFAS contaminated military base during their career.
  • Codify the Department Of Defense’s PFAS Task Force: The bill would statutorily codify the PFAS Task Force established by Department of Defense Secretary Mark Esper in July 2019.  Codifying the Task Force would ensure enduring Departmental focus on the PFAS issue. 

Senator 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. Shaheen successfully established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water.  Because of Shaheen’s efforts, Pease will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study. Government funding legislation recently signed into law included a number of provisions authored and supported by Shaheen to respond to PFAS contamination, including a provision that would phase out the use of PFAS in Department of Defense firefighting foams and prohibit its use in the military after 2024, an additional $10 million to continue the nationwide PFAS health impact study that Shaheen established in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 defense bill, $43 million for the EPA to help states address PFAS contamination and remediation, and funding for PFAS research on firefighters’ protective gear. In the annual defense bill signed into law last year, Senator Shaheen worked to include the bipartisan Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, which expedites analysis of water contaminants like PFAS and provides support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.

Bill text of the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act is available here.