Cleaning Up Forever Chemicals

January 10, 2020

Dear Friend,

Today, I voted to pass the PFAS Action Act (H.R. 535), a bill to help protect our drinking water, air and soil from highly toxic and long-lasting per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals.

Experts refer to these harmful, man-made compounds as “forever chemicals” because of their ability to linger in the environment and persist inside the bodies of humans, animals and other organisms for long periods of time. PFAS chemicals have been linked to many adverse health effects, including cancer, thyroid disease, developmental disabilities, immune system deficiencies and high cholesterol. That’s why the presence of PFAS in consumer products, in addition to incidents of environmental contamination, are particularly troubling.

Military bases and surrounding communities are acutely susceptible to PFAS contamination due to the chemicals contained in firefighting foam used to put out fires on military vehicles, ships and aircraft. In fact, several military installations in Maryland – including Fort Meade and the United States Naval Academy – have been contaminated by PFAS chemicals.

For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has known about the dangers of PFAS chemicals but failed to reduce the spread of PFAS contamination or clean up contaminated sites, exposing millions of Americans to dangerous, cancer-causing compounds. Worse yet, the Trump Administration – in its ongoing efforts to advance the interests of dirty polluters and wealthy chemical companies – has repeatedly failed to take meaningful action to address PFAS contamination.

Over the last several years, I have criticized chemical companies and the Trump Administration for failing to address the dangers of forever chemicals. But today, the U.S. House of Representatives – with bipartisan support – took decisive steps to protect American service members, families and communities from PFAS.

The PFAS Action Act will help clean up and prevent future exposure to PFAS in Maryland and across the country.

Key provisions of the PFAS Action Act include:

  • Improving coordination between federal agencies and committing federal resources to help clean up PFAS-contaminated military installations across the country;
  • Reducing PFAS pollution in water, air and soil by requiring the cleanup of contaminated sites, setting air emission standards, prohibiting unsafe incineration of PFAS and limiting the introduction of new PFAS chemicals;
  • Identifying health risks by requiring comprehensive health testing for all PFAS chemicals, strengthening reporting requirements when PFAS gets released into the environment and regularly monitoring drinking water for PFAS contamination; and
  • Limiting human exposure to PFAS by requiring a drinking water standard for PFAS that protects public health, including the health of pregnant women, infants and children. The bill also provides grants to help clean up contaminated water systems, creates a voluntary label for cookware free of PFAS and provides information to first responders about how to limit PFAS exposure.

For more information about the PFAS Action Act, see here.


Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District