September 28, 2019
When Washington is as hectic as it was this week, it can seem like everything else grinds to a halt. But while other important stories were making big headlines, we quietly achieved an incredible milestone for legislation to protect the lives and health of families and communities in our Capital Region and beyond.
Across America, communities have started to discover that harmful and potentially deadly toxins called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances have found their way into our air, our drinking water, been manufactured into consumer goods and packaging, and even present in firefighting foam. Commonly known as PFAS, these human-made chemicals have contaminated the environment in hundreds of our cities, towns and military bases, endangering ecosystems and human lives.
PFAS pollution is dangerous & hard to clean up
- PFAS chemicals are everywhere—they coat most non-stick pans, are used as liners in food packaging, and have been used in countless other consumer products.
- PFAS is a class of chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS and thousands of other variants.
- These synthetic ‘forever’ chemicals are now present in the blood of 99% of Americans.
- Negative health effects of PFAS exposure start to occur at extremely small concentrations.
- These effects include increased risks of kidney disease, thyroid dysfunction, and various forms of cancer.
- Up to 110 million Americans may have PFAS-contaminated drinking water.
- More than 1,500 drinking water systems across the U.S. may be contaminated.
These chemicals pose an extreme threat to the health and well-being of our communities. As your representative, I have been leading the charge in Congress for immediate action to prevent these harmful contaminants from entering our environments and harming our families and communities.
I have pressed the EPA repeatedly to develop solutions to prevent PFAS chemicals from contaminating drinking water. In December of 2018, I and my colleagues Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Peter Welch (D-VT) sent a letter to the EPA demanding greater transparency on data involving these contaminants
- On Thursday, I chaired an important hearing in my Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change where we reviewed, debated and advanced 13 bills to address the PFAS contamination crisis. Among other measures, these important pieces of legislation would:
- Designate PFAS as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
- Provide grants for PFAS-affected drinking water systems to put in treatment infrastructure.
- Issue guidance for firefighters to minimize their risks of PFAS exposure.
- Set a Maximum Containment Level (MCL) for PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
- Create a “Safer Choice” label for pots, pans and cooking utensils that are PFAS-free.
- Require comprehensive testing of all PFAS under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
- Hold PFAS manufacturers financially responsible for any necessary cleanup.
In addition to this watershed achievement for our national PFAS action plan, I was selected as a key negotiator between the House of Representatives and the Senate over the terms of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA outlines funding and operations for the U.S. Department of Defense. The House and Senate bills both include provisions on how to address the contamination of PFAS chemicals into Americans drinking water. Strengthening this bill is pivotal to establishing the results we need to reduce environmental and health risks of PFAS.
Too many families have suffered the consequences of toxic exposure to PFAS. We know the horror stories of Hoosick Falls and Newburgh. We cannot stand by as other communities are exposed to these dangerous chemicals.
Many of us are working together to prevent the continued spread of PFAS chemicals. This crucial work to safeguard our drinking water and the health of our families must continue. I thank all who are fighting to resolve this crisis and defend the health and safety of the American people. We could not hope to win out against these pollutants if not for your work and vocal support. Thank you.
As always, thank you for reading.