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Shaheen's bill to address military exposure to PFAS

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March, 2017.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By JEFF MCMENEMY | Foster’s (Dover, N.H.) Daily Democrat | Published: April 10, 2019

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (Tribune News Service) — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is introducing the bipartisan PFAS Registry Act on Wednesday with Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

The legislation seeks to create a national database for servicemembers and veterans who have experienced health problems that possibly are connected to exposure to the chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The bill would allow military personnel and veterans to receive updates on recent scientific developments on the effects of PFAS exposure, possible treatment options and information on what resources might be available to address their health concerns.

Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., representing the state’s First District, is slated to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill will be co-sponsored by Second District Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

“Our servicemembers are occupationally more likely to be exposed to PFAS, so it’s necessary that they have all the resources available to understand the potential health implications related to their exposure,” Shaheen said Wednesday. “The federal government has a role to play here in delivering those answers and ensuring accountability to keep our water supplies clean.”

Shaheen added “our military members dedicate their lives in service to our nation, they should have access to the information they need to keep themselves healthy and safe.”

“PFAS contamination is an issue that crosses state and party lines, and I’m glad to have Sen. Rounds’ support to push this bill and issue forward,” Shaheen said.

Thousands of people working at Pease International Tradeport, along with children and infants who attended two day-care centers there, were exposed to multiple PFAS from contaminated water in the city-owned Haven well up until its closure in 2014.

The Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a report last week stating people at the former Air Force base were exposed to PFAS between 1993 and 2014. That exposure, the ATSDR stated, “could have increased the risk for harmful health effects to Pease International Tradeport workers and children attending the child-care centers.”

ATSDR released its Health Consultation Report on PFAS in Portsmouth’s public water supply last week. It acknowledged “exposures to military and base personnel (at the former Pease Air Force Base) could have occurred before 1993 through drinking water and other sources.”

The source of PFAS in the Pease water system is assumed to be from aqueous film-forming foam used at the former Air Force base, the ATSDR states in the report.

The city closed the polluted well in May 2014 after the Air Force found high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, in the well.

In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency set permanent health advisories for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, at 70 parts per trillion.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, nonstick cookware and water-repellent fabrics. They also have a range of applications in the aerospace, aviation, automotive and electronics industries.

In addition to the chemicals’ suspected carcinogenic properties, ATSDR states PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with hormones.

Andrea Amico of Portsmouth is a co-founder of the community group Testing For Pease, which has advocated for families exposed to the PFAS at Pease.

“The PFAS Registry Act is a critical piece of legislation needed to help track and educate servicemen and -women about their PFAS exposure at military bases,” Amico said Wednesday. “PFAS contamination at military bases from firefighting foam is a serious and widespread public health issue. As more impacted sites are identified, it is imperative to have a way to follow members of the military and keep them updated as the body of science on PFAS evolves.”

She credited Shaheen with her “continued leadership and legislation to combat PFAS exposure and to meet the needs of millions of Americans impacted by this widespread contamination affecting our entire nation.”

Shaheen’s legislation established the first-ever national study on the health effects of PFAS exposure in drinking water. Shaheen and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., also fought successfully to have the Pease community serve as the model site for the national PFAS health study.

©2019 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)
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