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Monday, December 6th, 2021

Senate advances legislation protecting firefighters, first responders from PFAS chemicals

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Bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting firefighters, first responders, and communities from exposure advanced the Senate Thursday.

The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R- Maine), co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, would focus on PFAS Chemicals, 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.”

PFAS chemicals are often used in firefighting foams and personal protective equipment, leading to frequent exposure for emergency response teams. The substances have been linked to several health problems, Collins’ office said, including certain cancers.

The PFAS Act would direct the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop guidance for firefighters and emergency personnel on best practices and training to reduce, limit and prevent exposure to PFAS. In coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the bill would also require DHS to educate personnel on alternate foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS.

The bill is also co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).