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Shaheen Leads NH Delegation Call to ATSDR for Update on Merrimack-Area Health Consultations on PFAS Exposure

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a letter with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) requesting an update on health consultations, which have been underway in the Merrimack-area since August 2016 in response to the discovery of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in the region. 

In response to the discovery of PFAS contamination in water supplies in the towns of Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Londonderry and a portion of Manchester, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) requested that ATSDR conduct health consultations for both the public water systems and private wells in these areas. ATSDR initiated these health consultations in 2016, which have yet to be completed. 

The delegation wrote, “While the impacted communities have been assured that the health consultations are in process, they have received little in terms of data or findings, which deprives residents of critical information about the risks and extent of PFAS contamination in their region.” 

The purpose of an ATSDR health consultation is to look at specific health questions or issues that arise about a potential environmental hazard, chemical or radiological contamination. ATSDR has conducted several health consultations in New Hampshire over the years, including those looking at PFAS, which were requested by the Air Force at Pease. Senator Shaheen and her office have continuously raised the health consultations underway in Merrimack with ATSDR on behalf of Granite Staters who are waiting for answers. 

The delegation continued, “Residents of five towns have been waiting several years for the publication of ATSDR’s health consultations, which could improve residents’ knowledge of their exposure and provide valuable data to help inform their healthcare decisions. In addition to an update on the status of these health consultations, we also request a timeline for when these reports may be completed and released to the public.” 

In closing, the delegation reiterated the importance of continuing to work together to combat PFAS exposure. 

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. 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 personal protective equipment research for firefighters’ protective gear. 

In January, the House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act, a bipartisan package legislation that would combat PFAS contamination and clean up polluted sites. Representatives Pappas and Kuster cosponsored the legislation. Last year, Shaheen and Hassan helped introduce similar legislation in the Senate with Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).