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Providing for Consideration of H.R. William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year Providing for Consideration of H.R. Child Care is Essential Act; Providing for Consideration of H.R. Child Care for Economic Recovery Act; and Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendments to H.R. Taxpayer First Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Date: July 20, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, I rise with concerns about the troubling pattern of legislating national chemical policy based upon emotions rather than scientific fact, including in this NDAA. I am referring specifically to certain anti-science, anti-practicality, and potentially anti-soldier provisions involving this bill related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS.

PFAS is not one well-known substance; it is actually a class of thousands of different chemicals of which we know very little about. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is no precise, clear definition of what constitutes a PFAS substance, with the lowest total of several estimates of PFAS encompassing more than 5,000 substances.

The dots on this chart represent the scope of 5,070 substances identified on the Environmental Protection Agency's current PFAS master list. The 29 dots that are highlighted represent those individual PFAS for which EPA has a reliable scientific method to test their presence in drinking water. Finally, the two red dots are the only two that we think are problematic to human health, and that is PFOA and PFOS.

Some of the uses of specific PFAS chemicals the Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved for use: heart stents, in this case, for patients suffering from artery blockage; and occluders for infants suffering from the congenital heart condition known as an atrial septal defect, which plugs a hole in the heart.

I don't have a poster for the next chart on health, but 40 new fluorine-containing drugs were introduced to the market from 2001 to 2011, including those that treat cancer, respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular conditions, and infectious diseases.

Regardless, section 331 of this NDAA prohibits DOD from buying any personal care items, dental floss, or sunscreen that carries PFAS. This doesn't mean just the two PFAS we know about; it means the thousands for which we know nothing. This includes any safer alternative product with a different PFAS.

We should know what this means for our troops sitting in the desert Sun in far-off places before Congress summarily takes these products away, some of which have already been approved for use by other Federal agencies.

Separately, section 332 of this NDAA requires certain DOD PFAS cleanups under the Superfund to use the strictest standards, nullifying Superfund, which relies on cleanups ``assuring'' protection of human health and the environment and being ``relevant and appropriate under the circumstances.'' In other words, for only DOD, section 332 in this NDAA disregards site characteristics; prevents more practical, protective cleanups; and focuses only on being more stringent. This kind of policymaking is punitive; it is wasteful; and it is unscientific.

Later we will debate the Delgado amendment, which some suggest is a technical fix to the Toxic Release Inventory language Congress added in NDAA 2020. This amendment, however, is not a technical fix, and it raises serious policy questions that regular order would have done a much better job of settling.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't have to be this way, with Congress playing scientist. EPA has been working diligently to understand the health effects of the seven most common PFAS while simultaneously investigating the hazards of another five.

EPA also just released the Toxic Release Inventory mandates for 172 PFAS and is finalizing a Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory determination, is completing regulation preventing market access for long-chain PFAS, and is evaluating the need for Clean Air Act and Superfund regulation of certain PFAS.

Mr. Speaker, I hope conference negotiation will remove these troublesome provisions, or at least significantly modify them to align with the realities of our fighting men and women, their needs in the field, and not arbitrarily restrict things based upon anxiety and the lack of science.

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