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Shaheen, Rounds Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Assist Veterans & Service Members Exposed to PFAS Contaminants

**Rep. Chris Pappas (NH-01) Leads Bipartisan Effort in the House of Representatives**

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced the PFAS Registry Act with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), legislation that would create a national database for service members and veterans experiencing health problems possibly due to contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS chemicals, like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have emerged as a widespread contaminant to the drinking water sources of military bases across the country due to their use in firefighting foam used by the Armed Services. This bipartisan bill would allow military personnel and veterans to receive updates on recent scientific developments on the effects of PFAS exposure, availability of possible treatment options, and information on what resources may be available to address their health concerns. Shaheen has led efforts in Congress that seek to uncover the health impact of emerging contaminants in water supplies. Rep. Chris Pappas (NH-01) is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives, which is cosponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY-19). 

“Our service members are occupationally more likely to be exposed to PFAS, so it’s necessary that they have all the resources available to understand the potential health implications related to their exposure,” said Senator Shaheen. “The federal government has a role to play here in delivering those answers and ensuring accountability to keep our water supplies clean. Our military members dedicate their lives in service to our nation – they should have access to the information they need to keep themselves healthy and safe. PFAS contamination is an issue that crosses state and party lines, and I’m glad to have Senator Rounds’ support to push this bill – and issue – forward.” 

“While the military works to clean up PFAS contamination on bases around the country, it’s important that veterans, service members and their families have access to the most up-to-date information on the effects of PFAS exposure and treatment options,” said Senator Rounds. “I’m pleased to partner with Sen. Shaheen again this Congress on legislation to create a PFAS Registry. As we learn more about PFAS chemicals, it’s important those who may have been exposed to them have all the tools available to fully understand the effects of PFAS contamination. Our bill is an important first step to enable them to gain that understanding.”

“For decades, exposure to PFAS contaminants has put the health of our military service members and veterans at risk as they selflessly put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Congressman Pappas, a member of the recently-created bipartisan PFAS Task Force. “One of the primary responsibilities of our government is to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, and we should recognize that solemn obligation to our brave men and women in uniform. I’m proud to take a leading role in the House to introduce the PFAS Registry Act, bipartisan legislation which will give military service members and veterans the health information, research updates, and resources they deserve. I’m hopeful this important step and many others after it will provide relief to those who have been exposed to PFAS and protect public health.”

“Sadly, we know that many of our service members have been exposed to PFAS chemicals during their service, putting them at risk of serious health problems,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We cannot turn our back on these men and women who have answered the call to duty. This legislation is an important step toward making sure exposed service members are aware of their risks and are able to access information about benefits and treatment. I will continue to work to ensure that all those who serve are able to access the resources and support they need.” 

Senator Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, established the first-ever nationwide health impact study of PFAS chemicals in drinking water in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. And as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen secured the necessary funding for the study in government funding bills for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to respond to the pervasive problem of emerging contaminants in water supplies across the country, including New Hampshire. 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.  

Specifically with regard to veterans and service members, Senator Shaheen has called on the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to investigate cancer-related health concerns of service members who served at Pease Air National Guard Base. Her letter came in response to concerns from Granite Staters that cancers among former Pease service members may be caused by service-connected chemical exposure to known carcinogens as well as PFAS. Just last week, Senator Shaheen raised these concerns directly with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. 

Andrea Amico of Portsmouth co-founded Testing for Pease, a community group advocating on behalf of the families in Portsmouth who have been affected by the water contamination. "The PFAS Registry Act is a critical piece of legislation needed to help track and educate servicemen and women about their PFAS exposure at military bases,” said Amico. “PFAS contamination at military bases from firefighting foam is a serious and widespread public health issue. As more impacted sites are identified, it is imperative to have a way to follow members of the military and keep them updated as the body of science on PFAS evolves. Servicemen and women will greatly benefit from a PFAS registry and the community is grateful for Senator Shaheen's continued leadership and legislation to combat PFAS exposure and to meet the needs of millions of Americans impacted by this widespread contamination affecting our entire nation." 

Text of the legislation can be read here.