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Congress takes step forward to protect drinking water from PFAS chemicals

Washington, DC – Today, Congress took bipartisan action to protect drinking water from contamination by passing legislation that directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow airports to use firefighting foam free of highly fluorinated chemicals or PFAS. The use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam is responsible for drinking water contamination for millions of Americans.

PFAS chemicals 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 eight years.

“Families 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.”

Included in legislation to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and to strengthen disaster programs that passed the Senate today is a provision that allows commercial airports to choose to use firefighting foams that do not contain PFAS chemicals. This provision is an important step forward because much of the drinking water contamination is found near airports – military and commercial – that use PFAS-based aqueous film-forming foam.

Firefighting foam without PFAS is currently used successfully around the world, including at the Copenhagen and Heathrow airports, but outdated federal guidelines have required U.S. commercial airports to use foam that contains PFAS.

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families applauded the bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers who led negotiations of the final package: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.); Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.); House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.); and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). The group also thanked Michigan Senator Gary Peters and Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan for their advocacy on the PFAS provision.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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