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Congress Directs FAA to Stop Requiring Toxic Firefighting Foams at Airports

Fireman uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam.

(Seattle, WA) – Today Congress directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow airports to use firefighting foam free of highly fluorinated chemicals or PFAS. PFAS-containing firefighting foam is responsible for the contamination of drinking water of millions of Americans across the country, including in the Washington state communities of Issaquah, Whidbey Island, and Airway Heights.

The new provision is included in the recently passed FAA Reauthorization Act. It follows the passage of a Washington State law earlier this year to prohibit the sale of PFAS-containing firefighting foam. The state law did not apply to certain airports because of the federal law requiring use of the foam. The elimination of the federal requirement for PFAS-containing foam at airports means that Washington’s ban will eventually apply to the state’s airports.

PFAS are a class of chemicals that are linked to cancer, liver toxicity, and other health effects. The chemicals are extremely persistent and can stay in the human body for as long as 8 years.

“Our communities have a right to safe drinking water and firefighters should be protected from harmful chemicals on the job. PFAS contamination is extremely persistent and contaminates people, wildlife, and water. The costs of clean up are huge already and preventing future contamination makes sense,” said Toxic-Free Future Executive Director Laurie Valeriano. “PFAS-free foams are already in use in airports in other countries. We look forward to when these toxic foams are no longer in use in Washington state and across the country.”

“Communities across the country are being exposed to these highly toxic chemicals in their drinking water. Congress has taken an important step toward ending the use of PFAS foams at commercial airports,” said Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Director Liz Hitchcock. “We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to take many more steps forward to tackle this public health crisis.”

“States have been dealing with PFAS contamination for years. Today’s action can set the stage for strong state actions to keep PFAS out of water and the environment,” said Safer States Strategic Adviser Gretchen Salter. We expect several states to keep up the pressure to reduce exposure to these chemicals in the next few years.”

The bi-partisan provision was introduced by Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05). Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) a firefighter, and Representative Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) sponsored the first-in-the nation Washington state law.

PFAS have come under increased scrutiny in the last few years in Washington State. The Departments of Ecology and Health are currently finalizing a PFAS chemical action plan that will recommend actions for reducing and eliminating sources of these chemicals in the state. The Department of Health is in the process of testing some water systems for PFAS and issuing drinking water standards for the chemicals.


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