Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act. The bipartisan legislation would help protect firefighters, emergency responders, and the communities from exposure to PFAS—also known as “forever chemicals” since they do not naturally break down.
“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.”
“Protecting firefighters from harmful exposure to dangerous PFAS chemicals is the least we can do for these heroes who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” said Senator Peters. “I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill that will help protect the health and safety of first responders by limiting their exposure to these harmful chemicals in the line of duty.”
"Fire fighters have dedicated their lives to protecting others and keeping their communities safe. Unfortunately, these brave men and women are exposed to dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ while serving their communities, subjecting them to higher risks of cancer and other serious health effects,” said Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “The IAFF supports measures to address these chemicals and commends Senators Peters for his continuous efforts to help protect fire fighters, emergency medical responders, and the communities they serve from unnecessary PFAS exposure."
Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful PFAS substances 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 would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – 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.
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 addition to Senator Collins, the PFAS Act is cosponsored by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Tom Carper (D-DE).