McGovern, Kildee Introduce New Legislation to Protect Firefighters from Toxic PFAS Chemicals

Press Release

Date: July 15, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (MA-02), alongside Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), introduced new legislation today to ensure that firefighters exposed to toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals at military installations get the health care services they need through the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA).

Currently, military firefighters that are exposed to firefighting foam containing PFAS are not guaranteed health care to respond to that exposure. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to cancer as well as thyroid, kidney, liver, heart and reproductive problems. This legislation would require the VA to cover treatment for firefighters who have any health conditions associated with exposure to PFAS chemicals.

Additionally, the legislation would direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create a safe standard for the gear firefighters use while fighting fires. It would also allow Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to be used to clean up toxic PFAS chemicals at firefighting training centers. The purpose of the HMGP is to help communities implement programs that reduce the severity of natural or man-made disasters. This legislation is endorsed by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF).

"America's firefighters, including our military firefighters, put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe -- we owe it to them to make sure the equipment they use is free from toxic chemicals that could harm them," said Congressman McGovern. "The companies that manufacture PFAS have hidden their true dangers from the public for decades, and it's long past time for that to change. I'm proud to join Congressman Kildee to introduce this important bill to strengthen oversight of PFAS use, remove these chemicals from our fire training centers, and guarantee that military firefighters who have been exposed can get the treatment they deserve. Nobody in America -- but especially not our first responders -- should get sick because of unsafe chemicals they use on the job."

"For decades, military firefighters have been exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals, which are known to be unsafe. Military firefighters are entitled to quality health care if they are exposed to PFAS chemicals," said Congressman Kildee. "Military firefighters are already facing so many hazards on the job and they shouldn't be worried about toxic PFAS chemicals in their gear, which is supposed to protect them. I am proud to have worked with the International Association of Firefighters on this important legislation dealing with toxic PFAS chemicals."

"We've learned much about the hazards of PFAS and the links between fire fighters' on-the-job exposures and their rates of cancer, which are higher than the general public," said Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of International Association of Fire Fighters. "I commend Representatives Kildee and McGovern for their efforts to and address health issues linked to PFAS exposures within the Department of Defense community. This legislation will help protect the health of firefighters and the public."