Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, supported passage of the Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act. The bipartisan legislation would provide guidance for federal, state, and local fire departments to prevent firefighters from being exposed to harmful PFAS chemicals that are frequently used in firefighting equipment.
"No one knows just how dangerous PFAS chemicals are more than firefighters who have been dealing with the devastating health effects of exposure to these "forever chemicals' for years," said Congresswoman Trahan. "We have an obligation to do everything we can to get our firefighters the guidance and resources necessary to remove PFAS chemicals from their equipment so they can do their jobs as safely as possible. I'm proud to support the bipartisan PFAS Act, and I look forward to working with local departments and firefighters to ensure they see the full benefits of this legislation."
Exposure to PFAS "forever chemicals" has been linked to serious health complications, including cancer, heart disease, infertility, and developmental disorders. The continued use of equipment, including firefighting foam and protective clothing, has been linked to increased rates of cancer and heart disease among firefighters. In fact, between 2002 and 2019, cancer was the leading cause of death for firefighters, totaling 66 percent of line-of-duty deaths. During the same period, heart disease caused 18 percent of career firefighter line-of-duty deaths. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, firefighters are 14 percent more likely to die from cancer than the average American.
"The health risks associated with PFAS exposure are very real for firefighters, their families, and their communities," said Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. "Occupational cancer is a deadly serious issue in the fire service, and we're grateful for the support of our local, state, and federal partners in helping to reduce and mitigate firefighters' contact with PFAS chemicals in the course of their work. The PFAS Act would work in concert with our ongoing prevention efforts and help local fire departments stay ready for any emergency without putting the public or their personnel at risk."
The bipartisan PFAS Act will require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fire Administrations, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to provide information on training and best practices for fire departments to prevent exposure to PFAS chemicals. It would also require that guidance to include resources that identify alternate firefighting tools and equipment that do not contain PFAS chemicals. The legislation, which previously passed the Senate, cleared the House 400-22 and now heads to President Biden's desk to be signed into law.
Addressing PFAS chemical exposure and contaminations has been a top priority for Trahan since joining the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year. Trahan co-authored a request with Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) to provide necessary federal funding for local fire departments to replace equipment containing PFAS chemicals. Additionally, she helped introduce and pass the PFAS Action Act, bipartisan legislation to clean up PFAS contaminations, help families who have been exposed to PFAS chemicals, and prevent future exposures. Following House passage of the legislation, Trahan testified on the comprehensive federal PFAS legislation before the Massachusetts PFAS Interagency Task Force co-chaired by State Representative Kate Hogan.
Late last year, Trahan supported passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which contained $10 billion to address PFAS contaminations nationwide. Since then, she has partnered with local communities to highlight federal funding being used to support water system upgrades designed to prevent PFAS contamination, including in Hudson and Littleton.