March 24, 2019 In The News, Media

Norcross, Menendez push action on military firefighting chemical

Burlington County Times
March 24, 2019

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross has introduced a bill to provide blood testing for military firefighters who were potentially exposed on the job to toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl subtances, or PFAS. Meanwhile, his colleague in the Senate, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, is pushing for the Department of Defense to release documents pertaining to an alleged effort to influence an upcoming PFAS policy decision by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The chemicals have drawn increased scrutiny over the past several years, after they were used for decades in commercial products such as Teflon pans and water-resistant clothing, as well as for military applications such as firefighting foams. The Department of Defense is now investigating more than 400 bases where the foams were used, including Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and a pair of former Navy bases across the Delaware River in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Two primary chemicals in the firefighting foams, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have been linked by some studies to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, reproductive and developmental issues, some cancers, and other health effects.

Firefighters who used and trained with the foams say they’ve been largely overlooked, as the federal government and state regulators work to address high levels of exposure to off-base, civilian residents. Norcross says his bill, the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act, is designed to support the firefighters.

“Military firefighters respond to our nation’s emergencies, but we’re not responding to their health needs. That’s unacceptable,” Norcross, , D-1st, of Camden, said in a prepared statement. “Considering the recent trends, our military should take this simple proactive step to add a needed blood test so servicemembers have all of the health information they need.”

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