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Shaheen Urges Action to Eliminate PFAS from Firefighter Gear Following Findings in New NIST Report

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a follow-up study regarding  per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by firefighters to determine the risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals in this gear.

“Before these studies, there was limited data to address firefighters' very valid concerns about the potential dangers associated with the equipment they rely on to do their jobs,” said Senator Shaheen. “The findings from this new NIST report are clear: more than 20 types of PFAS might be present in firefighter gear and regular wear and tear can increase exposure risks, posing a threat to the health of our first responders. We must redouble efforts to develop alternatives that will keep all first responders safe.”

Shaheen secured the authorization and funding of the study in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and government funding legislation to inform steps that can be taken to address concerns regarding firefighters’ occupational exposure to PFAS chemicals through their turnout gear. The provision that established the study is based on her bipartisan standalone bill – the Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act.

The follow-up study from NIST shows that textiles used in protective clothing, called turnout gear, tend to release more PFAS when they are subject to everyday wear and tear. The two studies identified the many PFAS compounds present in selected turnout gear textiles, how much of each was present and whether simulated wear and tear increased the amount of PFAS that the textiles released.

Senator Shaheen has long led action in the U.S. Senate to research, prevent and remediate PFAS exposure. She has also specifically worked on efforts to mitigate exposure for first responders, who are often times occupationally more likely to be exposed to the dangerous substances. In the fiscal year 2023 NDAA, Shaheen added an amendment requesting the Department of Defense (DOD) to prohibit DOD from purchasing PFAS-laden firefighting turnout gear after October 1, 2026 if PFAS-free alternatives are available. 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.