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Senator Hassan Pushes Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Steps Agency is Taking to Better Understand Health Impacts of PFAS

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To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.

 WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan yesterday pushed Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about the steps the agency is taking to understand how per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in drinking water is impacting the health of Granite Staters and Americans during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing.

“Families in my state continue to have questions about what PFAS contamination in drinking water means for their health and the health of their children,” Senator Hassan said. “There is a critical need to better understand and address any potential adverse health effects the contaminants may have on our communities. Dr. Collins, what is the NIH doing to study these chemical compounds and their potential health effects on Americans?”

Dr. Collins responded, “There is a big project which DOD is funding, which our NIEHS, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is a part of along with the CDC [Center for Disease Control] ATSDR [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry], that is going to, I think, provide the kind of data we currently don't have, at least in terms of epidemiology of what is the relationship of exposure and the human medical problems. We desperately need more information of that sort.” 

Senator Hassan also highlighted the need for more and better treatments as a way to manage pain in light of the fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic that continues to devastate communities across New Hampshire. The Senator discussed the Advancing Cutting-Edge (ACE) Research Act, a bipartisan bill she introduced earlier this year that would help the NIH advance important science to address the opioid epidemic, including through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, which was launched last year by the NIH. 

Dr. Collins emphasized the importance of the ACE Research Act to NIH’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic because it would provide NIH the flexibility needed to quickly advance research on new treatments and non-addictive painkillers.

He said: “The HEAL initiative that you mentioned, HEAL standing for Help End Addiction Long-Term, one of the projects we are most excited about, which is truly ambitious, is to see if we could identify maybe three places in the nation where a particularly hard hit circumstance is happening with opioids, and bring together…as a research enterprise, all of the players in that, the primary care docs, the emergency rooms, the police, the fire departments, the criminal justice system, all of the other support systems, the state health departments, and see what could we actually do if everybody worked together in a coordinated way to tackle this problem, because no single one of those is going to be able to be successful in ending this terrible national crisis.”