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Slotkin unveils bills to address PFAS exposure among military communities

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin

A series of bills to address PFAS exposure among service members and contamination on military installations and in surrounding communities was unveiled Thursday by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing).

The five individual bills include measures to screen service members for PFAS exposure, prohibit procurement by the Department of Defense (DOD) of products containing PFAS, and require transparency in cleanup efforts, among others.

“When it comes to addressing PFAS exposure and contamination, the federal government has kicked the can down the road for way too long, and it’s left our service members and communities across Michigan shouldering the burden,” said Slotkin. “These five bills will require the Department of Defense to take meaningful steps to clean up these ‘forever chemicals’ and to provide essential support to our men and women in uniform who have been exposed. Winding down the use of PFAS and cleaning up contaminated areas has been one of my top priorities in Congress – it’s a threat to Michiganders’ way of life, and it’s time for action.”

The package of bills includes:

• The PFAS Free Military Purchasing Act, which would prohibit Department of Defense procurement of certain items containing certain types of PFAS, including cookware, floor wax, cleaning products, carpeting and upholstery, and food packaging materials.

• The PFAS Exposure, Assessment, and Documentation Act, which would require the Department of Defense to evaluate service members for exposure to PFAS during physical exams and – if they are exposed – provide a blood test to determine and document their level of exposure.

• The PFAS Strictest Standard Act, which would require the Department of Defense to abide by most stringent standards among state or federal PFAS standards in cleanup efforts.

• The PFAS Training For DoD Providers and Service Members Act, which would require the Department of Defense to provide each of its medical providers with mandatory training regarding the potential health effects of PFAS. 

• The PFAS Cleanup Transparency Act, which would require the Department of Defense to post on a publicly available website timely and regularly updated information on the status of cleanup at sites.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been used for decades in everything from firefighting foam to food packaging. Because of its widespread use, PFAS have been introduced to various environments and waterways in Michigan, which has, according to a 2019 report, the highest number of PFAS-contaminated sites in the country. Because they are resistant to natural degradation processes, PFAS are harmful to humans and are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals.’

In the two most recent annual National Defense Authorization Acts for fiscal years 2022 and 2023, Slotkin led a number of provisions related to PFAS that were signed into law, including a measure requiring the DoD to publish results of drinking and ground water PFAS testing conducted on or near military installations or former defense sites and another facilitating the development of alternative gear for service members that is not laden with forever chemicals.

Tony Spaniola, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network, says Slotkin continues to lead the fight for military families and defense communities on the front lines of the PFAS crisis.

“Her legislative package provides common sense solutions to protect members of our armed services and the communities that support them — and to honor their dedication to preserve the freedoms that make our nation great,” he said.

“We are grateful to Representative Slotkin for standing up for the health of impacted communities by driving legislation to clean up and reduce exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals,” said Bentley Johnson, Federal Government Affairs Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “If enacted, these bills will save lives by providing early medical warning signs and better care, and will raise the bar for cleanup standards and timelines. We call on Congress to advance these policies to protect the health of families and communities that are grappling with toxic PFAS contamination.”

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