EWG Applauds Passage of Amendment to Designate PFAS as “Hazardous Substances”

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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, July 12, 2019

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today approved an amendment to designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under CERCLA, the Superfund law.

Yesterday, the House passed amendments to quickly end the military’s use of the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, and to expand efforts to monitor for PFAS pollution.

The package of amendments was added to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020, a must-pass defense spending bill. It will:

  • Quickly phase out military use of PFAS in firefighting foam.
  • End the use of PFAS in military food packaging.
  • Expand water quality monitoring for PFAS.
  • Ensure proper incineration of military PFAS wastes.
  • Accelerate PFAS cleanups at DOD facilities.
  • Provide an additional $5 million for ATSDR study.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to study Defense Department cleanup efforts.
  • Create an online health database for military members.

PFAS chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm have been found in the drinking water of millions of Americans. Under current law, there are no limits on PFAS discharges into the air and water, no requirement to filter contaminated water, and no requirement to clean up legacy PFAS contamination. 

“Although these amendments will not address all of the challenges posed by PFAS pollution, they represent an important first step,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “We applaud House leaders and Reps. Dingell, Kildee, Dean, Pappas, and Levin for making PFAS a priority.”

The House also approved an amendment to restrict industrial PFAS discharges into drinking water supplies.

Other PFAS-related provisions already included in the House’s defense authorization bill include:

  • A provision that allows the National Guard to gain access to environmental remediation funds.
  • More than $121 million in dedicated environmental remediation funding to address PFAS-contaminated drinking water near military installations.
  • A provision, championed by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), to fund blood tests for military firefighters to check for PFAS exposure.
  • An amendment championed by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Col.) that prohibits the use of fluorinated firefighting foams in training exercises on military installations.
  • An amendment championed by Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) that allows the Defense Department to provide clean water to farmers near military installations with PFAS-contaminated ground water.

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 includes many of these PFAS reforms.

EWG estimates that more than 100 million Americans could be drinking tap water contaminated with PFAS.

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The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.