11.13.19

Gardner-Shaheen Bill to Address Health Concerns Regarding Firefighters’ Exposure to PFAS through Protective Gear Clears Key Senate Committee

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) bipartisan bill, the Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act, unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bipartisan legislation, which Gardner and Shaheen introduced in September, would take important steps to examine and address health concerns regarding firefighters’ occupational exposure to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals through their personal protective equipment. 

Specifically, the legislation would authorize a comprehensive study of the personal protective equipment worn by firefighters to determine the identity and concentration of PFAS, as well as firefighters’ risk of exposure to these chemicals from the gear. The legislation would also establish a federal grant program to advance the development of safe alternatives to PFAS chemicals in personal protective equipment.

“Our firefighters and emergency responders in Colorado and around the country risk everything to protect our communities, and it is our duty to make sure we have accurate research to understand and mitigate any dangerous PFAS exposure during emergency response and training activities,” said Senator Gardner. “I’m proud the Committee approved my bipartisan legislation with Senator Shaheen, which will authorize a study through the National Institute of Standards and Technology to examine the concentration of PFAS in firefighters’ protective gear and take steps to reduce or eliminate the possibility of any dangerous PFAS exposure.”

“Firefighters face daunting, and too often, life-threatening challenges on the job every day. The safety and condition of their own protective gear should never be one of them,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m very pleased by the bipartisan support for this bill, and as a whole, the bipartisan effort to prioritize a federal response to PFAS contamination in our communities. This is an issue impacting Granite Staters, Coloradans and Americans across the country, and it deserves the immediate and full attention of Congress. Firefighters, service members, veterans and all those who have been in contact with PFAS chemicals deserve the information they need to understand the health implications related to their exposure, and I won’t stop working until that promise is fulfilled.”

“The IAFC supports S. 2525 Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act of 2019,” said Chief Gary Ludwig, President and Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “Firefighter safety is of the utmost importance and this bill will take us a step closer to ensuring firefighters can do their jobs without worrying they are experiencing chemical exposure from the equipment they use every day. We urge Congress to consider and pass S. 2525 Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act of 2019 this year.”

“The hazards of PFAS are well-known. The link between these toxic chemicals and cancer is particularly concerning for fire fighters, who experience cancer at higher rates than the general population,” stated Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of International Association of Fire Fighters representing 320,000 professional fire fighters. “I commend Senator Shaheen for her work on this important issue and continued commitment to protecting the health and safety of fire fighters and the public.”  

Senator Gardner’s actions to address PFAS:

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.