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Amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Targets Forever Chemicals

Monday, July 27, 2020

Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., heads a new amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that is designed to scale back the risks of exposure to toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS.

PFAS have been linked to several types of cancer and have contaminated at least 328 U.S. military installations according to the Environmental Working Group. The amendment proposed by Dingell would require the Environmental Protection Agency to list PFAS chemicals, including those found in firefighting foam that military bases use, as hazardous to get grants for cleanup. The EPA would also have to set up enforceable federal drinking water standards.

According to Dingell, the NDAA is a vehicle to get the chemical legislation into law after the original proposed bill went dark in the Senate. The bill was passed in the House but the White House threatened to veto it if it passed in the senate.

A statement from the White House stated that the bill would “require the Administration to bypass well-established processes, procedures, and legal requirements of the Nation’s most fundamental environmental laws,” including the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. “By truncating the rulemaking process,” the statement said, “this legislation risks undermining public confidence in the EPA’s decisions, and also risks the imposition of unnecessary costs on States, public water systems, and others responsible for complying with its prescriptive mandates.”

Recent reports from the Environmental Working Group found 28 bases with PFAS levels in drinking water that were above standards set by the state. The leading cause of these levels in the water come from firefighting foam which has been used on bases for decades.

This legislation would serve to protect servicemembers, families, communities around military bases. These chemicals are dangerous and have been dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not leave the body once ingested. They can build up in the human body over time and have been linked to many cancers. The amendment proposed by Debbie Dingell will help to curtail the impacts PFAS can have on military bases.

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