Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Dan Kildee (MI-05) held a video press conference to announce the introduction of their landmark bill, the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act. Per- and polyfluoroalykl substances (PFAS) are a class of toxic chemicals found in a special foam used to fight fires called aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), and have been linked to certain cancers, thyroid disease, reproductive problems, decreased immune function in children, and other serious adverse health effects. For years, firefighters have been exposed to these chemicals through the use of AFFF and face a higher risk of developing cancer and other diseases. This bill would ban firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals. Gillibrand and Kildee were joined by Liz Hitchcock, Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the federal policy program of Toxic-Free Future, and Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. during the press conference.
“PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of firefighters who have put their lives on the line to protect our communities. To make matters worse, the runoff from this foam can quickly lead to widespread PFAS contamination in the drinking water of surrounding communities near the facilities where it is used,” said Senator Gillibrand. “AFFF is harming our firefighters, our military communities, and innocent families who live near these facilities, and it has to stop. My PFAS Firefighter Protection Act would do just that by permanently banning the use of harmful firefighting foam in the United States.”
“For decades, firefighters have been exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam, which are known to cause cancer and other health issues,” said Congressman Kildee. “Our firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to protect us––and we must protect them by getting rid of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam. I am proud to introduce this legislation with Sen. Gillibrand to protect our brave firefighters.”
“PFAS firefighting foams have contaminated drinking water for communities in New York State and across the country. States from Washington and California to Colorado and New York have banned PFAS foams. Fluorine-free foams are available and in use around the world, with more and more entering the marketplace. It’s time for the federal government to ban these dangerous toxic foams to protect firefighters and the communities they serve,” said Liz Hitchcock, Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, the federal policy program of Toxic-Free Future
“Fire fighters serve as this nation’s frontline emergency responders. While combatting fires, our members are exposed to PFAS-laden firefighting foams. This exposure subjects us to higher risks of occupational cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The time has long passed to accept this as a hazard of our work,” said Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “The 326,000 members of the IAFF support Senators Gillibrand’s legislation banning the manufacture and distribution of toxic PFAS-laden foams, and she has my gratitude for taking up this battle with us to save lives and communities from this deadly exposure.”
“For decades, PFAS-laden firefighting foam has been one of the biggest sources of pollution from toxic forever chemicals, especially in communities near military bases, airports, and fire training sites,” said Melanie Benesh, Environmental Working Group Legislative Attorney. “It’s also a major source of exposure for the firefighters who risk their lives to protect those communities and suffer from higher rates of cancer and other serious health harms. Safer alternatives to PFAS in firefighting foams are already widely available and PFAS Firefighter Protection Act will finally turn off the tap on this use of PFAS.”
Congress has already passed legislation removing the legal requirement for AFFF containing PFAS to be used at many commercial airports and military installations. To better protect our firefighters in New York and across the country, Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would go a step further by putting prohibitions in place against firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals. Specifically, the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act would:
- Ban the manufacturing, importation, and sale of all firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals within two years of enactment.
- Set firm deadlines for airports for prohibiting the use of PFAS firefighting foams. Current law states that the FAA shall not require airports to use firefighting foam that contains PFAS. This legislation would prohibit its use by 2024.
Experts estimate that the drinking water supplies of more than 200 million Americans are contaminated with PFAS. PFAS chemicals do not break down in the environment and have been found in groundwater and drinking water across the United States, and are commonly used in products like firefighting foam, water-repellent clothing, and nonstick cookware, among others.
For the full bill, please click here.