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Gillibrand proposes banning PFAS to protect firefighters and residents

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Charles Dharapak
Associated Press
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan introduced the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act in the Senate and House on Wednesday. The act bans the manufacture, sale and distribution of firefighting foam containing PFAS.

Firefighters have used PFAS because it resists oil and heat. But the chemicals can be inhaled and absorbed by the skin and are known to cause cancer, thyroid disease and reproductive problems.

They have also contaminated drinking water. Senator Gillibrand said her state has suffered from the effects of PFAS for too long.

“This nationwide ban would ensure firefighters across the country no longer have to needlessly risk their lives just to do their jobs,” Gillibrand said.

Kildee said his constituents have suffered from PFAS chemicals in their water too.

“It's not acceptable that we continue to use this foam when we know it will likely leach into the drinking water of the surrounding communities, like the one that I represent in Oscoda, Michigan, where unsuspecting children and families consume these toxic forever chemicals,” Kildee said.

PFAS chemicals are referred to as forever chemicals because they break down very slowly and can last for thousands of years.

Edward A. Kelly is the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Kelly called on Congress to support the bill.

“It's going to take all of us working together, advocating together to make sure that these dangerous carcinogenic chemicals are removed from society in totality,” Kelly said. “That's why we're calling on Congress to take this very important step to pass this legislation that will remove a portion of these dangerous chemicals from society.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.