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Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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Legislation to Protect Emergency Responders Passes the House

The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act would direct DHS – in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, 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.

Legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to help protect the health and safety of firefighters and emergency responders from PFAS exposure has passed the House. 

The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act directs federal agencies to develop best practices, training, and educational programs to reduce, limit and prevent exposure to PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally break down. The bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop educational resources for firefighters on alternative foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS. 

The legislation, which passed the Senate last summer and was led through the House by U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“Firefighters and first responders put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities in Michigan and across the nation safe,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will protect our heroes from harmful PFAS substances and minimize exposure to these dangerous chemicals that continue to harm residents and communities in Michigan and across the country.”

“Our brave firefighters face a disproportionate level of exposure to certain harmful PFAS chemicals as they carry out their duty to keep our neighbors and communities safe,” said Senator Sullivan. “I applaud my House colleagues for passing our legislation to prioritize the health and well-being of these selfless public servants. Once the President signs the PFAS Act, we will be able to better limit PFAS exposure, employ safer practices, and also find responsible alternatives to these chemicals.”

“Fire fighters routinely put their lives on the line to keep us safe, and they face additional risk from exposure to toxic substances in firefighting foams and personal protective equipment,” said Senator Hassan. “I introduced this commonsense, bipartisan bill to reduce fire fighters’ exposure to PFAS substances that are linked to numerous health problems including certain cancers. I am glad that this bill has passed the House and Senate, and look forward to seeing the President sign this into law.”

“Firefighters and first responders put their lives on the line to keep communities safe, and they should not have to worry about being exposed to harmful chemicals like PFAS,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation will develop guidelines to keep our first responders safe and limit the introduction of these harmful contaminants into the environment. I applaud the House for passing this crucial legislation and look forward to President Biden signing it into law.”

Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) 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 Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act would direct DHS – in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, 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.

Read more at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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