Today, the House of Representatives passed legislation led by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) to help protect the health and safety of firefighters and emergency responders from PFAS exposure. The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act 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 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop educational resources for firefighters on alternative foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS. The legislation, which passed the Senate last summer, now heads to the President's desk to be signed into law.
"Forever chemicals are an urgent public health threat, especially to our firefighters who are frequently exposed to harmful PFAS in firefighting foams and personal protective equipment as they work to keep us safe," said Congresswoman Dingell. "I'm proud to send the PFAS Act to the president's desk to protect our frontline emergency responders from the dangerous effects of these forever chemicals, and further minimize the spread of PFAS in our environment and communities"
"Firefighters and first responders put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities in Michigan and across the nation safe," said Senator Peters. "This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will protect our heroes from harmful PFAS substances and minimize exposure to these dangerous chemicals that continue to harm residents and communities in Michigan and across the country."
"PFAS contamination is a public health and environmental crisis that impacts millions of Americans, including many firefighters in communities across the country," said Congressman Fitzpatrick, Co-Chair of the Congressional PFAS Taskforce. "Today's passage of our Protecting our Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act will bolster training and improve best practices for protecting our emergency first responders against exposure to these toxic "forever chemicals' while on the job. I am proud of the leadership Representative Dingell and our Senate colleagues have demonstrated on this issue and look forward to President Biden swiftly signing this crucial health and safety measure into law."
"I'd like to thank Senator Peters for his leadership on the PFAS Act. Firefighters have a greater risk of contracting and dying from cancer than the general public as a result of duty-related exposures," said Steve Hirsch, Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council. "Enactment of this important legislation will lead to improved health and safety outcomes for firefighter, EMS, and rescue personnel."
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 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- 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 firefighters 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.
Dingell has long led the fight against PFAS, introducing a host of legislation to limit American's exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals, including the Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act, No PFAS in Cosmetics Act, and the PFAS Action Act.