Gillibrand introduces bill to ban PFAS from firefighting foam

Within two years of enactment, the act would ban the manufacture, import or sale of any firefighting foam that includes PFAS


Alex Gault
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

WASHINGTON — Firefighters are regularly exposed to dangerous situations and toxic chemicals. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand has introduced legislation to take some of those toxins out of the tools and equipment firefighters use every day.

On Wednesday, Sen. Gillibrand, D- N.Y., introduced the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act, which would ban the manufacture, import or sale of any firefighting foam that includes perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances within two years.

"Because of the high presence of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foams and protective gear, our nation's firefighters are at particular risk of falling ill," Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand said Wednesday. (Photo/Airman 1st Class Amber Powell)

The foam is a common tool used by firefighters and automatic fire suppression systems when entering buildings that are actively burning.

The chemicals, known as "forever chemicals" because they do not break down or change form over time, have been proven to cause cancer, thyroid disruptions, immune disorders and developmental delays in children.

"Because of the high presence of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foams and protective gear, our nation's firefighters are at particular risk of falling ill," Sen. Gillibrand said in a video news conference Wednesday.

The chemicals also pose risks for the communities that use them. Runoff from firefighting foam can enter municipal water systems and contaminate it. Such instances were common around military aviation installations, including the Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield on Fort Drum, where firefighting foam chemicals and other aviation-related chemicals have contaminated over half of the post's water wells, necessitating a multi-million dollar replacement water infrastructure project on post.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Gillibrand to ban PFAS in military installations has already passed in the National Defense Authorization Act, and Sen. Gillibrand said the time has come for the chemicals to be removed from civilian applications as well.

She introduced the bill in the Senate on Wednesday. The measure was introduced in the House by Rep. Daniel T. Kildee, D- Mich.

"This legislation will rid us of these forever chemicals from our firefighting foam and will help safeguard our firefighters and our drinking water," Rep. Kildee said. measure was introduced in the House by Rep. Daniel T. Kildee, D- Mich. Our communities deserve clean drinking water, and we should do everything we can to protect them."

Sen. Gillibrand said PFAS chemicals are used in plastics manufacturing and other material manufacturing. The Honeywell Corp., Saint-Gobain, 3M and DuPont, which all maintained manufacturing facilities around New York state, were held responsible for contaminating the Hoosick Falls water supply with PFAS as discovered in 2014.

"These manufacturers don't use the process that has PFAS as a byproduct anymore, but I would like to ban it altogether from use in any manufacturing process, period," she said.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is considering a bill, passed by the House, called the PFAS Action Act, that would ban PFAS in almost every application still used.

"We want to try to get it done through the EPW committee. They're reviewing it and haven't done it yet," Sen. Gillibrand said. "But we're pushing."

___

(c)2022 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2022 FireRescue1. All rights reserved.