Murkowski, Shaheen address health concerns for firefighters’ exposure to PFAS

WASHINGTON PRESS RELEASE - U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced today that they’ll introduce bipartisan legislation next week that would require the Department of Defense to include blood testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as part of routine physicals for military firefighters. The Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act builds on the Senators’ efforts to prioritize actions that respond to the potential health effects of occupational exposure to PFAS, particularly in firefighters. The bill has been endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

“Alaskans across the state are dealing with PFAS issues,” said Senator Murkowski. “I have cosponsored legislation to require the EPA to list these compounds as hazardous substances, supported an amendment to allow airports to purchase non-fluorinated firefighting foam, and now I’m proud to lead on this bipartisan bill. It will require the DoD to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters across the services—one more step towards addressing the public health and safety risks of PFAS, keeping our lands and Alaskans healthy and safe.”

“The potential health effects related to PFAS contamination are distressing, especially for military firefighters who have bravely served at more than 400 bases around the nation found to be contaminated with these materials. These heroes may have experienced long-term exposure to these contaminants. While the health impacts of PFAS are still being studied, we must ensure accountability and transparency to keep people informed of their exposure to these chemicals. That’s just what this bill would do,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our military firefighters and service members risk their lives to protect our country and the communities they serve, so it’s imperative that the federal government take every precaution necessary to keep them safe throughout their service.”

“Federal fire fighters dedicate their careers to protecting the public and our military. As a result of their job, these fire fighters are exposed to toxins like PFAS, a component of firefighting foam. It is incumbent upon the Department of Defense to monitor the level of PFAS toxin within our federal fire fighters,” stated Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “The International Association of Fire Fighters fully supports the medical monitoring called for by the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act. On behalf of our federal fire fighters, and more than 316,000 members of the IAFF, I want to thank Senators Shaheen and Murkowski for their leadership on this important issue.”

Background:

• In March, Senator Murkowski recently joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the PFAS Action Act of 2019.
• In December, Shaheen and Murkowski sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), requesting they take additional steps to ensure potential health impacts in firefighters are sufficiently studied.
• A bipartisan companion bill will be introduced by Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ) in the House of Representatives.