Shaheen, Murkowski Build on Bipartisan Efforts to Address Health Concerns for Firefighters’ Exposure to PFAS, Announce Bill that Would Require Blood Testing as Part of Routine Physicals for Military FirefightersMarch 21, 2019
**Shaheen & Murkowski Previously Called on the CDC and ATSDR to Prioritize Studies on Health Effects of Firefighters’ Occupational Exposure to PFAS**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced today that they’ll introduce bipartisan legislation next week that would require the Department of Defense to include blood testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as part of routine physicals for military firefighters. The Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act builds on the Senators’ efforts to prioritize actions that respond to the potential health effects of occupational exposure to PFAS, particularly in firefighters. The bill has been endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). In December, Shaheen and Murkowski sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), requesting they take additional steps to ensure potential health impacts in firefighters are sufficiently studied.
A bipartisan companion bill will be introduced by Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ) in the House of Representatives.
“The potential health effects related to PFAS contamination are distressing, especially for military firefighters who have bravely served at more than 400 bases around the nation found to be contaminated with these materials. These heroes may have experienced long-term exposure to these contaminants. While the health impacts of PFAS are still being studied, we must ensure accountability and transparency to keep people informed of their exposure to these chemicals. That’s just what this bill would do,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our military firefighters and service members risk their lives to protect our country and the communities they serve, so it’s imperative that the federal government take every precaution necessary to keep them safe throughout their service.”
“Alaskans across the state are dealing with PFAS issues,” said Senator Murkowski. “I have cosponsored legislation to require the EPA to list these compounds as hazardous substances, supported an amendment to allow airports to purchase non-fluorinated firefighting foam, and now I’m proud to lead on this bipartisan bill. It will require the DOD to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters across the services—one more step towards addressing the public health and safety risks of PFAS, keeping our lands and Alaskans healthy and safe.”
“Federal fire fighters dedicate their careers to protecting the public and our military. As a result of their job, these fire fighters are exposed to toxins like PFAS, a component of firefighting foam. It is incumbent upon the Department of Defense to monitor the level of PFAS toxin within our federal fire fighters,” stated Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “The International Association of Fire Fighters fully supports the medical monitoring called for by the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act. On behalf of our federal fire fighters, and more than 316,000 members of the IAFF, I want to thank Senators Shaheen and Murkowski for their leadership on this important issue.”
PFAS contamination has been a serious problem in several southern New Hampshire communities, and responding to this concern has been a top priority for Senator Shaheen. Just yesterday, Senator Shaheen led a group of Senators, calling on the Department of Defense (DOD) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release communications they’ve had with the White House, and with each other, regarding the establishment of federal drinking water standards and groundwater guidelines for PFAS substances. This request came after Shaheen questioned Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan about media reports that the DOD is requesting the White House adopt substantially weaker guidelines for groundwater pollution caused by PFAS than those suggested by the EPA.
Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination. 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. In the last Congress, Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)—the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act— that would improve federal efforts to identify and address the public health effects of emerging contaminants such as PFAS. In February, Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan letter with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) that called on the EPA to establish federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, to which the EPA responded that it “intends” to establish these standards.
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