GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan congressman has introduced a new bill to ban the use of firefighting foam that contains PFAS.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, introduced House Bill 7597 on Wednesday, informally called the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act.
“Harmful PFAS chemicals are a threat to our drinking water, firefighters and communities,” Kildee said. “It is time to stop spreading these harmful chemicals and ban the use of PFAS in firefighting foam.”
PFAS, the shorthand for per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, have been used for decades in several products like nonstick cookware and water repellent. But federal regulators weren’t aware that it could be toxic until 1998. Studies over the last two decades have shown that PFAS has been linked to many severe health problems, including certain cancers, thyroid disease and reproductive issues.
PFAS is also a key ingredient in some forms of aqueous film forming foam — a product that was commonly used by firefighters as an extinguisher. The PFAS chemicals help create a film between the burning material and the oxygen, choking out the fire. Class A foams do not contain PFAS and are considered safe. Class B foams contain the chemicals and are considered unsafe.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, serves with Kildee on the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force. She said AFFF puts the country’s firefighters directly in danger and indirectly impacts the community.
“PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of firefighters who have put their lives on the line to protect our communities. To make matters worse, the runoff from this foam can quickly lead to widespread PFAS contamination in the drinking water of surrounding communities near the facilities where it is used,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “AFFF is harming our firefighters, our military communities, and innocent families who live near these facilities, and it has to stop. The PFAS Firefighter Protection Act would do just that by permanently banning the use of harmful firefighting foam in the United States.”
Michigan’s state government has already taken action on AFFF. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has worked to pull firefighting foams containing PFAS from the field, starting a collection campaign in 2019. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has instructed fire departments to use Class B foam only during emergencies to save lives or protect critical infrastructure. LARA must also be notified whenever Class B foam is used.
The PFAS Firefighter Protection Act would expand on bills that have already cleared the U.S. House and currently sit in the Senate. The PFAS Action Act, passed last July by the House, would ban manufacturing, importing and sales of AFFF. It would also force any entity to stop using any firefighting foam containing PFAS by 2024.
The PFAS Firefighter Protection Act has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for further review.