July 24, 2020 In the News

Sens. Shaheen, Rounds lead effort to raise awareness of PFAS risks

By Jeff McMenemy
July 24, 2020

PORTSMOUTH — U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Mike Rounds have introduced bipartisan legislation to promote the creation of educational courses for doctors to better understand the health impacts of PFAS chemicals.

The Physician Education for PFAS Health Impacts Act, would establish a grant program within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pay for the creation of training and education courses for doctors on PFAS health effects.

The former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth and Newington is one of more than 600 military installations in the United States contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Thousands of people working at Pease International Tradeport, along with children and infants who attended two day-care centers there, were exposed to multiple PFAS chemicals from contaminated water in the city-owned Haven well until its closure in 2014.

The Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a report in 2019 stating people at the former air base were exposed to PFAS from 1993 to 2014. In addition to being a suspected carcinogen, ATSDR states PFAS exposure can harm childhood development, increase cholesterol levels, hurt the immune system and interfere with hormones.

PFAS chemicals have been found in private drinking water wells at and around numerous sites in New Hampshire.

“As we discover more communities throughout the United States have been exposed to PFAS chemicals, it’s critical that we prioritize research and resources to understand what that means for their health and well-being,” said Shaheen, D-N.H. “This is a pervasive problem in New Hampshire and it is unacceptable that Granite State families continue to wait and worry about how their level of exposure affects their health. This legislation would help empower physicians with the information and resources they need to provide the best care possible to those who’ve been exposed to these dangerous chemicals.”

Rounds, R-S.D., noted “we are still learning about the full range of the effects of PFAS chemicals on the human body.”

“As we learn more, we will be better able to diagnose PFAS-related illnesses and treat symptoms,” he said. “The grant program created in our legislation will provide resources so physicians can better understand PFAS chemicals.”

The Shaheen-Rounds legislation is endorsed by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Endocrine Society, the Environmental Working Group and the Green Science Policy Institute.

PFAS are man-made chemicals used in products worldwide since the 1950s, including firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and water-repellent fabrics. They also have a range of applications in the aerospace, aviation, automotive and electronics industries.