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

July 29, 2021

**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**

 

**A key provision of the legislation which would codify the PFAS Task Force established by DOD was included in the FY22 NDAA that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee last week**

  

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act, 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 reintroduction of the bill comes after the Senate Armed Services Committee passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week, which included a comprehensive amendment she led with U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to investigate, combat and remediate exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at current and former U.S. military installations across the country, including at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire. The amendment contained a key provision from the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act to statutorily codify the PFAS Task Force established by former Department of Defense (DOD) Secretary Mark Esper in July 2019, following his commitment to Shaheen to prioritize combating PFAS. Codifying the Task Force would ensure enduring departmental focus on the PFAS issue. In addition to providing blood testing for service members, 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.  

“Contamination by toxic PFAS substances at U.S. military facilities is a pervasive issue jeopardizing the health and well-being of our men and women in uniform. These hazardous chemicals have been linked to a litany of health risks like cancer and harm to the immune and reproductive systems, making it critical that we monitor and identify service members and their families’ potential exposure,” said Shaheen. “The PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act would provide military families with access to blood tests, allowing them to be kept informed about their health, receive further follow-up care if needed and take measures to prevent and combat further exposure to PFAS chemicals. Our service members put their lives on the line each day to protect our nation and we owe them every measure to protect their health and provide them with the best care possible.” 

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, following his commitment to Shaheen to prioritize combating PFAS. Codifying the Task Force would ensure enduring departmental focus on the PFAS issue.   

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. This legislation continues Shaheen’s work to identify potential PFAS exposure in service members. The FY2020 NDAA included her bipartisan legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act – which requires the Department of Defense to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters. 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.   

Senator Shaheen leads efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. In addition to her comprehensive PFAS amendment with Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal, Shaheen successfully secured an authorization for an additional $15 million to continue the PFAS health impact study at Pease in the FY2022 SASC-approved NDAA. Shaheen has fought to secure consistent federal support for this study that she established four years ago. Because of her efforts, Pease is serving as a model site for the nationwide study. The study at Pease is actively seeking participants.   

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