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Shaheen Secures Highest Funding Level Ever for PFAS Health Impact Study in Final Version of Annual Defense Bill

Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to combat PFAS exposure & established the first-ever PFAS health impact study in the fiscal year 2018 NDAA.

Shaheen, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also successfully adds provision based on her standalone legislation to address health concerns regarding PFAS exposure through firefighter protective gear.

 (Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced she successfully included critical priorities in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure. Shaheen successfully boosted funding to $15 million to continue the PFAS health impact study that she established in the FY18 NDAA – a record high. Shaheen also included a provision based on her bipartisan standalone legislation to take important steps to address health concerns regarding firefighters’ occupational exposure to harmful PFAS chemicals through their personal protective equipment.  

The NDAA is annual legislation that authorizes national defense programming for the year. Senate and House Armed Services Committee leadership released the final text today after conferencing to solve differences between the bills previously passed in both chambers. With this final agreement, both chambers will consider the final bill before it’s sent to the President. 

“The prevalence of PFAS in New Hampshire communities and more across the country has caused serious concern among those exposed, leading too many Americans to worry about the safety of their drinking water. That’s unacceptable and demands a serious response from Congress that matches the threat of this problem, which is precisely what these measures seek to do,” said Shaheen. “The PFAS health impact study will shed light on the health effects of those who’ve been exposed to help guide important health decisions. Not only will it provide overdue answers to those who’ve been impacted, but it will help direct our ongoing response. Just as important as our response is our effort to prevent exposure before it starts, which is why my provision examining the safety of firefighters’ protective gear is critical to ensure the equipment meant to keep them safe doesn’t inadvertently contain chemicals that could threaten their health. Combating PFAS contamination will require a comprehensive strategy and my provisions in this year’s NDAA will make good on that effort. I look forward to seeing this bill advance and urge Senate and House leadership to move swiftly.” 

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. Shaheen has consistently secured and boosted federal funding for the PFAS health impact study that she worked to establish 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. Shaheen’s provision based on her standalone legislation would specifically would authorize a comprehensive study of the personal protective equipment worn by firefighters to determine the identity and concentration of PFAS, as well as firefighters’ risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals from the gear. The FY21 NDAA also establishes a federal grant program and authorizes $2.5 million to advance the development of safe alternatives to PFAS chemicals in personal protective equipment. 

In this year’s NDAA, Senator Shaheen also included a requirement in the bill for the Department of Defense (DOD) to explore PFAS destruction technology. Last year, Senator Shaheen successfully included a provision in the FY2020 NDAA that will phase out the use of PFAS in DOD firefighting foams and prohibit its use in the military after October 1, 2024. That provision also requires the military to publish a new firefighting foam military specification by January 1, 2023 and ensure it is available for use by October 1, 2023. She also included her legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would require the DOD to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters.