Tillis Legislation to Protect Firefighters from Hazardous PFAS Chemicals to be Signed into Law

WASHINGTON, DC (December 5, 2022) — Recently, bipartisan legislation co-introduced by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Gary Peters (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to help protect the health and safety of firefighters and emergency responders from PFAS exposure 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 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 (EPA), 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.

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