Shaheen, Rounds Lead Bipartisan Letter Pushing for Increased Action from Pentagon to Address PFAS Exposure at Military Installations

September 20, 2022

(Washington, DC)— U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a bipartisan letter to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin and White House officials, urging increased funding for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) testing and remediation, and to improve PFAS-related planning to make use of the higher funding levels Congress is willing to appropriate to address the pervasive issue.  

The Senators wrote, in part, “As you know, PFAS chemicals have emerged as widespread contaminants to the drinking water sources of military bases across the country largely due to their presence in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used by the military. Members of the military, veterans and civilians who have served at military installations and/or live in the surrounding communities found to have been contaminated with PFAS face health risks related to exposure to PFAS chemicals, as these materials are found in AFFF, in personal protective equipment used by firefighters and in standard consumer products.” 

The Senators went on to detail the findings of a recent National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report that calls for expanded access to PFAS testing for Americans with a history of exposure to the chemicals and points to health risks such as high cholesterol, decreased fetal and infant growth and increased risks of kidney cancer for those exposed to PFAS. The Senators then continued to detail the robust amount of federal dollars provided by Congress to DoD to accelerate PFAS testing remediation and Congress’ continued willingness to provide additional resources to address the challenges the Department faces due to PFAS exposure. 

They closed their letter by urging the administration to put greater emphasis on addressing these pollutants. The Senators wrote, “Our service members, military families, veterans and defense communities deserve the Department’s full attention to appropriately address the scope and severity of PFAS contamination. We ask you to honor that responsibility and take the steps necessary to prioritize this hazard impacting our communities.” 

Their letter can be read in full here

In addition to Shaheen and Rounds, the letter is signed by thirty-eight lawmakers, including U.S. Senators Hassan (D-NH), Braun (R-IN), King (I-ME), Brown (D-OH), Blumenthal (D-CT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Peters (D-MI), Lujan (D-NM), Gillibrand (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Kaine (D-VA), Bennet (D-CO), Sinema (D-AZ), Murray (D-WA), Feinstein (D-CA), Booker (D-NJ), Warnock (D-GA), Padilla (D-CA), Casey (D-PA), Rosen (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Heinrich (D-NM), Kelly (D-AZ), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Ossoff (D-GA), Stabenow (D-MI), Schatz (D-HI), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Sanders (I-VT), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Wyden (D-OR), Merkley (D-OR) and Markey (D-MA).  

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 the fiscal year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year, Senator Shaheen was successful in including numerous PFAS provisions, including the authorization of an additional $20 million to continue the PFAS health impact study that she created in the 2018 NDAA. Because of her efforts, Pease is serving as a model site for the nationwide study. In addition, Senator Shaheen added an amendment requesting the Department of Defense to prohibit DoD from purchasing PFAS-laden firefighting turnout gear after October 1, 2026. This follows Shaheen-led efforts to expand blood testing and treatment for firefighters exposed to PFAS and a similar amendment she secured to ban the use of PFAS-laden firefighting foam in the FY 2020 NDAA. Senator Shaheen also included an amendment to clarify in statute that the National Guard can access Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) funds for PFAS cleanup at state-owned Guard facilities, which will save the Guard millions in funds they have previously been forced to divert from training and operations. Finally, Senator Shaheen successfully led on enhanced transparency by ensuring the Department of the Air Force is sharing PFAS test results with impacted communities. Just last week, Shaheen visited Pease International Tradeport – the former Air Force Base – with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Region 1, Dr. David Cash, to discuss the Biden administration’s progress toward recognizing two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – as hazardous chemicals under the law.  

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