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Shaheen Leads Call to Senate Appropriators to Prioritize Funding & Policy Initiatives to Combat PFAS Exposure in FY 21 Government Funding Legislation

(Washington, DC)– On Friday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee – led a group of Senators in a letter to the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee leadership, requesting that policies and funding to combat per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination be prioritized in upcoming government funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Shaheen led the letter on behalf of a group of 21 Senators, including Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), to the subcommittee’s Chair and Vice Chair, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

The Senators wrote, “As you work to finalize appropriations for the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fiscal year (FY) 2021, we encourage you to build upon the progress that was made in last year’s appropriations bill by providing critical funding to expand PFAS monitoring, standards development and cleanup capabilities.”

They continued, “PFAS materials have been associated with a number of adverse health effects, including birth defects, various forms of cancer and immune system dysfunction. While knowledge about the health impacts of PFAS is evolving, little is known about the long-term cumulative effects these unregulated contaminants may have on human health. To better understand the scope of the problem, it is critical that the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have the resources necessary to fully implement the new reporting and monitoring requirements that Congress passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2020.”

The lawmakers added that Congress must address ongoing industrial releases of PFAS into the environment since many facilities across the country have been known to discharge PFAS into the air and water through the manufacturing of products. They closed their letter by urging for the inclusion of provisions to tackle PFAS remediation, including drinking water sources and industrial sites. Their enclosed letter provided a list of legislative priorities that address PFAS research, monitoring, standards development, cleanup and more.

The letter can be read in full here.

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. In the annual defense bill that cleared the Senate in July, Shaheen successfully added an amendment to boost funding for the health impact study she established in the 2018 defense bill to $15 million for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The government funding legislation signed into law last year contained a number of provisions authored and supported by Shaheen that 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, $43 million for the EPA to help states address PFAS contamination and remediation, and funding for PFAS research on firefighters’ protective gear. In last year's defense bill, 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. Shaheen recently introduced the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act, which 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 PFAS. She  also worked with Senator Mike Rounds in July to introduce new bipartisan legislation that would  establish a grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund the creation of training and education courses and materials for physicians on the health effects of PFAS and best practices for caring for patients who have been exposed to PFAS.