MADISON, Wis. – Attorney General Josh Kaul joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general to call on the US Senate to pass a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by fiscal year 2023 with the necessary protections to combat exposure to poly and perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) “forever”, a class of highly toxic and environmentally persistent chemicals that pose a serious threat to public health, in communities across the country.
“We must ensure that the drinking water for all Wisconsinites is safe and clean,” said AG Kaul. “This legislation would enhance our response to the hazards posed by PFAS, helping to remediate contamination, prevent future contamination and more effectively address the harms to people’s health from PFAS.”
in a letter Sent Tuesday, the coalition urges Senate leaders to provide the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) with the necessary tools to conduct PFAS contamination remediation and removal to protect public health and the environment. environment. States across the country are currently spending tens of millions of dollars to combat the serious health dangers posed by PFAS contamination, and the threat to the public and the environment from the chemicals is growing. In the letter, the coalition endorses the Senate Armed Services Committee’s conclusion that to effectively address the persistence and toxicity of PFAS chemicals, we need a “whole of government” approach.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used to produce countless consumer products since the 1940s, including Scotchgard™ textiles; Teflon™ products, including nonstick cookware; food packaging; and waterproof clothing. PFAS containing firefighting foam has also been used for decades by the US military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments. PFAS are estimated to be detectable in the bloodstream of 99 percent cent of the US population.
PFAS are highly toxic to humans and animals and are extremely resistant to degradation in the environment; that’s why PFAS are known as “forever chemicals.” Exposure to various PFASs, including through contaminated water supplies, can lead to serious health problems, including decreased antibody responses to vaccines, increased risk of childhood infections, developmental problems for children, decreased birth weight, testicular and kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, liver damage, and thyroid disease.
The attorneys general are urging the Senate to adopt additional protections that appear in the House NDAA bill, which was recently approved by a strong bipartisan majority. These provisions include:
- Require that all Department of Defense cleanups of PFAS contaminations meet the most stringent state and federal standards and health advisories;
- Prohibit the purchase of personal fire protection equipment containing PFAS after October 1, 2025 (subject to an exception for unavailability);
- Require the Department of Defense to provide reports to the Armed Services Committees on the steps the department has taken to identify articles containing PFOA and PFOS and its efforts to limit the acquisition of those products;
- Require the Department of Defense to provide a detailed report to Congress on establishing a process to alert active and retired members of the Armed Forces (and their families) about exposure to PFAS;
- Require a report from the Department of Defense on progress made in replacing Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF)-containing fire-extinguishing agents and on known or suspected PFAS contaminations around military installations related to substances other than AFFF;
- Direct the US Department of Health and Human Services to expand its study of the health effects of PFAS contamination and report to Congress; Y
- Direct the Department of Defense to establish a program in coordination with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test drinking water for PFAS in Department of Defense-operated schools and install safe filtration systems and effective in meeting state and federal standards.
AG Kaul was part of a coalition of attorneys general that called on Congress to address PFAS in the FY2021 and FY2022 NDAAs. Following coalition efforts, the NDAA required: the addition of several PFASs to the Federal Inventory of Toxic Emissions; publicly available reports of data related to PFAS waste management; the phasing out of PFAS AFFF at Department of Defense sites; funding research for alternatives to PFAS-containing equipment; and completion of PFAS testing at Department of Defense and National Guard facilities.
Joining Attorney General Kaul in sending this letter are the Attorneys General of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington , as well as the District of Columbia.
Find this press release and letter here.