07/31/2021 | Press release | Archived content
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation that Senator Maggie Hassan and her colleagues introduced to help protect the health and safety of fire fighters, emergency responders, and the communities that they serve. The legislation, which was unanimously approved in March by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives.
'Fire fighters have some of the most dangerous jobs in the country keeping our communities safe, but they should be fighting fires - not toxic chemicals,' said Senator Hassan. 'I am glad to have worked across the aisle to pass this bill in the Senate, and I will continue to push my colleagues in the House to support the health and wellbeing of our fire fighters and address the threat of PFAS in our communities by passing this bill as well.'
'As someone who has spent their career as a fire fighter, I know the risks that toxic chemicals like PFAS can pose to our fire fighters,' said Brian Ryll, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire. 'I am grateful for Senator Hassan's efforts to help pass this important bill through the Senate that will help support and protect the health and wellbeing of fire fighters across New Hampshire.'
The bipartisan Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act,directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - to develop guidance for fire fighters and emergency personnel on best practices and training to reduce, limit and prevent exposure to PFAS, also known as 'forever chemicals' because they do not naturally break down. The bill would also require DHS to educate personnel on alternative foams and personal protective equipment that do not contain PFAS.
Emergency response teams are frequently exposed to harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams and personal protective equipment as they work to keep communities safe. PFAS substances have been linked to a number of health problems, including certain cancers.The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act would direct DHS, in consultation with relevant agencies, to create an online public repository of tools and best practices emergency personnel can use to reduce and prevent their exposure to PFAS. DHS also would be required to update regularly its guidance and curriculum developed pursuant to the Act.
Senator Hassan is working to support fire fighters and emergency responders. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan led efforts to include $300 million in the American Rescue Plan for FEMA grant programs that provide resources to fire fighters across the country to help with hiring, retention, and critical supplies. Senator Hassan also held a virtual roundtable in February with law enforcement, fire fighters, and health care workers from Manchester, Portsmouth, Franklin, and Hanover to hear first-hand how they are dealing with mental health concerns among their staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Senator Hassan introduced legislation to guarantee collective bargaining rights for fire fighters and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel.