Pa. Rep. Dean, others back bill to protect military kids from PFAS contaminants | Friday Morning Coffee

September 13, 2019 7:23 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A U.S. House lawmaker from suburban Philadelphia is teaming up with her fellow Democrats to protect children on military bases nationwide from the water contaminants known as PFAS chemicals.

Legislation sponsored by U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County’s 4th District; Andy Kim, of New Jersey, and Xochitl Torres-Small, of New Mexico, would require the Pentagon to test kids living on bases across the nation to track their exposure to the toxic chemical compounds that have been linked to decreased fertility and immunity and an increased risk of cancer in humans.

The “chemicals have long been used in a range of consumer products, and the military continues to use aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) in firefighting training exercises,” Dean’s office said in a statement.

The chemicals have been detected at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station, in Dean’s district. They’ve also been found at Fort Indiantown Gap, the Pennsylvania National Guard installation, in Lebanon County, near Harrisburg, according to StateImpact Pennsylvania.

In all, 33 states across the country have documented PFAS contamination near military sites, the Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison reported earlier this year.

Members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s PFAS action team hear from the public in Abington, Montgomery County on Monday, April 15. Capital-Star photo by Elizabeth Hardison.

In a statement, Dean said “PFAS contamination touches nearly everyone in America, and none more than the children of servicemembers living on or near military bases.

“We know these chemicals are dangerous, and we must do everything we can to mitigate the health risks young people face. Our service-members enlist to protect us – and we must do the same for them and their children.”

The legislation, H.R. 4295, would, according to a summary released by Dean’s office:

  • “Provide blood testing services for children that currently live or have lived on military bases in the last ten years that have had exposure to PFAS.
  • “Carry out an outreach program at military installations eligible for the program.
  • “Provide Congress with a summary of the results of the program, including the scope of child exposure on military installations.”

The legislation has attracted the support of an advocacy group for military families known as the National Military Families Association, which called the bill “an important first step to determine the extent to which military children have been exposed to PFAS contamination on military installations.”

“Recent revelations about toxic exposures in military housing and on military installations demand a public health response,” the group’s deputy government affairs director, Karen Ruedisueli, said in a statement.

Kim, whose district includes Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said Congress “[needs] to determine the true scope of the problem. These testing programs will do just that and work to keep our children and communities safe.”

Separately, U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, and Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, along with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., have introduced a bill requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a nationwide, enforceable standard for PFAS contaminants.

Right now, the federal government doesn’t currently have legally enforceable regulations for PFAS chemicals in drinking water, Hardison reported earlier this year.

“It is past time we address these contaminants with the seriousness they merit,” Boyle said in a statement earlier this year. “Public health is at stake while the EPA continues to dither and delay setting enforceable limits on these chemicals. This is unacceptable … No American should question the safety of their drinking water — period.”

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