U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, joined a bipartisan group of 40 senators to urge the Department of Defense (DoD) to increase its efforts regarding the testing and remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances?(PFAS).
In a letter sent to DoD Secretary Lloyd Austin, the senators asked the Department to prioritize PFAS testing, remediation, and disposal as part of its annual budget requests, as well as to improve PFAS-related planning to make use of the higher funding levels Congress is willing to provide to address the pervasive issue of PFAS contamination.
“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,” said the letter. “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.”
PFAS chemicals are widespread contaminants found in a variety of consumer products, various industrial applications, and firefighting foam and cause an array of health problems, including developmental effects, changes in liver, immune system, and thyroid function and increased risk of some cancers.
The senators’ letter details the findings of a recent National Academies of Sciences, 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 letter, which was led by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), was also signed by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mike Braun (R-IN), Angus King (I-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
Senator Gillibrand has long been a leader in the fight to protect military communities who have suffered from PFAS exposure. In the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Gillibrand successfully pushed to include a phase-out of DoD’s use of AFFF. And most recently, Gillibrand secured provisions in the FY22 NDAA to expedite the testing, cleanup, and remediation of PFAS at some of the most contaminated U.S. military installations.
Read the full letter HERE.