April 05, 2021

Following Years Of Advocacy, Gillibrand Joins Community In Hoosick Falls To Announce New Legislation To Create Access To Medical Monitoring For Victims Of Significant PFAS Exposure

Hundreds Of People In Hoosick Falls And Petersburgh Are Living With Dangerous Levels Of PFAS Chemicals From Contaminated Municipal Water Supply; Gillibrand’s PFAS Accountability Act Would Improve Access To Medical Monitoring And Create A Federal Cause of Action For Victims Of PFAS Exposure

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a roundtable discussion in Hoosick Falls with advocates and community leaders and announced legislation to provide Americans with improved legal pathways that would help courts award medical monitoring for victims of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure and bolster PFAS research. PFAS are a group of thousands of manufactured chemicals that can seep into drinking water supplies. They have contaminated waterways in New York and across the country. Hundreds of people in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh are living with dangerous levels of PFAS in their blood after contamination of the municipal water supply. The chemical is used widely in industrial manufacturing, including in the production of non-stick goods and firefighting foam, and has been linked to cancer and other serious ailments.  

For years, Senator Gillibrand heard the devastating stories of PFAS contamination in the Hoosick Falls community and pledged to help them receive medical monitoring. The PFAS Accountability Act would create improved legal pathways to award medical monitoring for PFAS contamination victims in order to prevent premature morbidity, disability, or mortality. The PFAS Accountability Act, led by Representative Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04) in the U.S. House of Representatives, would also incentivize funding for PFAS safety research. 

“When PFAS contamination was discovered in the waterways in Hoosick Falls, it was clear that those exposed could need long term care, especially children,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The shocking discovery of contamination here put the health of hundreds of New Yorkers at risk for PFAS-related diseases that take years to develop — this is exactly why medical monitoring is critical. No parent should have to worry about the health of their child because they’ve been exposed to dangerous toxins in their water. I’m proud that this new legislation will deliver on the promise I made here years ago to ensure medical monitoring is available to residents of Hoosick Falls. While this is an important step to protect the health of our communities, I will continue fighting until it is signed into law and we put an end to PFAS contamination that is poisoning waterways across our country.”   

“PFAS contamination has rocked many parts of my district and home state — and so many families suffer long term effects,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-04) said. “Individuals and communities who have been exposed to this contaminate deserve justice through the legal system and this legislation is doing just that and I thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue.” 

"As the Mayor of the Village of Hoosick Falls, NY, where PFOA was discovered in the municipal drinking water supply in late 2014, I am proud to stand with Senator Gillibrand as this important bill is introduced,” said Hoosick Falls Mayor Rob Allen. “In Hoosick we are all too familiar with the range of health effects associated with exposure to PFAS chemicals. We are also aware that, as a community we remain at a heightened risk as the PFOA levels within each one of us slowly wanes after years of accumulation due to industrial practices over which we had no control. Families should not have to spend years fighting for something as simple and necessary as medical monitoring, and yet that is exactly what happens, without the guarantee of success. This bill takes the important first step of acting on that enormous disparity in the response to PFAS contamination and exposure, and we are grateful for so many who have made this day happen: Senator Gillibrand and her staff, the advocates and lawyers who have worked on PFAS responses, and most importantly, the people across the nation who have shared their own PFAS exposure experiences and added momentum in the effort to address this crucial issue.”

“Our community welcomes the proposed legislation that is being put forward by Senator Gillibrand. We believe health monitoring is a fair and necessary step for communities forced to deal with physical exposure to toxic chemicals. We thank Senator Gillibrand for her continued work and support on behalf of the residents in the Town of Hoosick and other communities who find themselves in similar situations.” – Mark Surdam, Hoosick Town Supervisor

“There are two main things each and every exposed person I've talked to or work with on this issue want - stopping toxic PFAS exposures, and medical monitoring for their contaminated families. While there are regulatory actions in the works for the first, this will be the first bill that will actually assist victims by holding those responsible to account for most necessary medical monitoring, and codifying the toxic harm of PFAS as an injury. Illnesses linked to PFAS exposures are often costly, lifelong and devastating. Particularly, medical monitoring for our affected children is a must, as they deserve a chance at healthy lives. Those costs simply shouldn't be ours, as we didn't consent to be chemical guinea pigs. We've already paid more than enough, in every sense. I can't thank Senator Gillibrand and her staff enough for allowing me to be part of this process, and for their ongoing, sincere care of our communities.” – Loreen Hackett, co-chair of the Hoosick Area Community Participation Work Group

"I appreciate all of the work that Senator Gillibrand has done and continues to do for the families of Hoosick. Having a US Senator working for us directly is comforting because it means we are being heard and action is being taken. This journey has been a long one and we still have more work to do, but this legislation is a giant step in the right direction." - Brian Bushner, co-chair of the Hoosick Area Community Participation Work Group

“We are very thankful for Senator Gillibrand’s continued support! She has been a constant voice locally and nationally condemning PFAS contamination. Her main goal and concern from day one has been the health and well-being of our community as a whole. Her continued support with the PFAS Accountability Act is a huge step in holding these corporate polluters responsible.” – Michael Hickey, advocate, resident who discovered and exposed the PFAS contamination in Hoosick Falls

Last year, EWG confirmed that previous EPA data estimates of PFAS contamination — which estimated that the water supplies of 110 million Americans may be effected — have been drastically underestimated. However, the EPA has not created adequate regulatory standards to protect Americans from the growing crisis and serious health hazards. The PFAS Accountability Act would support the millions of Americans with significant PFAS exposure by:  

  • Creates access to medical monitoring for PFAS contamination victims to prevent against premature morbidity, disability, or mortality.
    • Eligible individuals would include those with pending litigation related to PFAS exposure, communities near military bases and airports, firefighters, workers who handle PFAS, and more.
    • Under the legislation, courts could award medical monitoring if, as a result of significant exposure, the individual or class has suffered an increased risk of developing a disease associated with exposure to PFAS and there is a reasonable basis for the individual or class to undergo periodic, effective diagnostic medical monitoring for diseases associated with PFAS exposure. 
  • Establishing a federal cause of action for victims of significant PFAS exposure to bring claims against manufacturers of PFAS.
    • An individual will be considered significantly exposed if they demonstrate that they were present in an area where PFAS was released for at least 1 year or they offer blood testing that demonstrates PFAS exposure.
  • Incentivizing industry to fund PFAS safety research.
    • The bill would allow courts to order new or additional epidemiological, toxicological, or other studies or investigations of new PFAS as part of a medical monitoring remedy.

Gillibrand has been a leader in the Senate in the fight to support victims of PFAS exposure and end toxic contamination. She has called for a national ban on toxic PFAS chemicals and repeatedly pushed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to combat environmental contamination. Gillibrand fought to include provisions in the final Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — passed by Congress and signed into law by the President —  that would protect communities from toxic PFAS exposure. The first of those provisions included is her bipartisan bill, the PFAS Release Disclosure Act that publicly identifies the sources of PFAS emissions. Specifically, it requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a clear process to add PFAS chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) — two of the most pervasive PFAS chemicals with scientifically demonstrated health effects — to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), a centralized database of environmental releases of toxic chemicals.  These requirements improve the availability of information related to the emissions of PFAS and help to identify the potential sources of PFAS emissions in the environment. The second provision is an amendment she co-sponsored that prohibits the Department of Defense from procuring firefighting foam that contains PFAS. 

Finally, Gillibrand fought to include a provision based on her bipartisan legislation, the Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act, in the FY20 NDAA passed by the United States Senate. However, the provision was stripped out of the conferenced NDAA with the House of Representatives. The legislation would have required the EPA to set a national primary drinking water regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act within two years. Currently, there is no legally enforceable limit to the amount of PFAS in public drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act

The PFAS Accountability Act is endorsed by the American Association for Justice and the Environmental Working Group (EWG).