Shaheen-Rounds Introduce New Legislation to Invest in PFAS Health Impact and Best Practices Education for Physicians

July 24, 2020

*Bipartisan Legislation follows Shaheen’s Call to the CDC to Develop Health Monitoring Protocols for Medical Care for those Exposed to PFAS**

*Shaheen & Rounds Previously Partnered on Legislation to Assist Veterans & Service Members Exposed to PFAS Contaminants**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced new, bipartisan legislation this week that would promote the creation of educational courses for physicians regarding the health impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. Their legislation, the Physician Education for PFAS Health Impacts Act, 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. 

PFAS chemicals have been found in private drinking water wells and military bases across the country, including numerous sites in New Hampshire. PFAS is also found in soil, food sources, packaging and other sources. It has been reported that more than 600 communities in at least 43 states are dealing with PFAS exposure. PFAS materials have been associated with a variety of adverse human health effects, including birth defects, various forms of cancer and immune system dysfunction. Understanding the full scope of health effects tied to PFAS exposure has been one of Senator Shaheen’s top priorities in the Senate, and led her to establish the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water.  

“As we discover more communities throughout the United States have been exposed to PFAS chemicals, it’s critical that we prioritize research and resources to understand what that means for their health and well-being,” said Senator Shaheen. “This is a pervasive problem in New Hampshire and it is unacceptable that Granite State families continue to wait and worry about how their level of exposure affects their health. This legislation would help empower physicians with the information and resources they need to provide the best care possible to those who’ve been exposed to these dangerous chemicals. I’ll continue to pursue every policy and avenue that will help deliver urgently needed answers that our communities need and deserve.” 

“We are still learning about the full range of the effects of PFAS chemicals on the human body,” said Senator Rounds. “As we learn more, we will be better able to diagnose PFAS-related illnesses and treat symptoms. The grant program created in our legislation will provide resources so physicians can better understand PFAS chemicals.”

The Shaheen-Rounds legislation has been endorsed by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP), the Endocrine Society, the Environmental Working Group, the Green Science Policy Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

This legislation follows Shaheen’s call to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September to develop health monitoring protocols for medical care for those exposed to PFAS. Shaheen also recently raised questions with the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) about the impact of COVID-19 on those who’ve been exposed to PFAS chemicals. Senators Shaheen and Rounds previously partnered on legislation to assist veterans and service members exposed to PFAS contaminants.

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 yesterday, 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 Environmental Protection Agency (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 also 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.

Bill text of the legislation is available here.