WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues in reintroducing a bill to help protect the health and safety of fire fighters, emergency responders, and the communities that they serve.
The bipartisan Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act, which passed the Senate last Congress, directs federal agencies to develop best practices, training, and educational programs to reduce, limit, and prevent exposure to PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally break down. The bill would also require guidance to be issued on alternative foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS.
“Fire fighters and first responders risk their lives to keep our communities safe, and it is unacceptable that they are regularly exposed to dangerous PFAS chemicals in their firefighting equipment,” Senator Hassan said. “I am proud to join in reintroducing this bipartisan legislation to protect the health and safety of our fire fighters and help ensure that they can serve our communities without having to worry about long-term harm from the gear that is supposed to protect them.”
Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams and personal protective equipment as they work to keep communities safe. PFAS substances have been linked to a number of health problems, including certain cancers.
The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – to develop educational resources to help protect firefighters, emergency response personnel, and the communities they serve from PFAS exposure. This would include information for federal, state, and local fire fighters on training and best practices to prevent and reduce exposure to PFAS from firefighting foams and protective gear, as well as resources that identify alternatives for firefighting tools and equipment that do not contain PFAS.
Senator Hassan has long fought to address harmful PFAS chemicals. The most recent government funding bill that Senator Hassan helped negotiate and pass into law included nearly $300 million in funding to address PFAS, including $15 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide PFAS study. Senator Hassan has also spoken out against the EPA for releasing a PFAS Action Plan that fails to set an enforceable drinking water standard, also known as a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), for PFOA and PFOS contaminants. Additionally, in 2018, Senator Hassan participated in the first-ever Senate hearing on contamination of PFAS in drinking water.