Washington, D.C.—Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Susan Collins to help keep first responders safe from PFAS passed the Senate unanimously. The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act would help protect firefighters, emergency responders, and communities from exposure to PFAS—also known as “forever chemicals” since they do not naturally break down. Senator Collins is a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.
“Across our nation, firefighters put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. One of the dangers they face is PFAS, and we owe it to these brave men and women to mitigate their exposure to these toxic chemicals and protect their health,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan legislation would help provide firefighters with the proper protective equipment and training to reduce the risk of PFAS and take steps to phase out the use of these harmful contaminants.”
Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful PFAS chemicals 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 PFAS Act directs 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 guidance for firefighters and emergency personnel on best practices and training to reduce, limit and prevent exposure to PFAS. The bill would also require DHS to educate personnel on alternative foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS.
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins has helped lead Congress’ work on a bipartisan basis to address PFAS contaminants and conduct environmental remediation when needed, including through the Department of Defense. The fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act authorized additional funding for research on the health impacts of PFAS, including an adopted amendment Senator Collins cosponsored with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) authorizing an additional $15 million for the PFAS study being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In June, Senator Collins introduced the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act, which would ban the inclusion of PFAS chemicals in cosmetics products, such as make-up, moisturizer, and perfume.
In addition to Senator Collins, the PFAS Act is cosponsored by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)