Senators urge VA to create registry for those exposed to PFAS

Kaylah Jackson
April 10, 2019 - 12:34 pm
Marines with Bulk Fuel Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group use Twin Agent Units to extinguish a blaze during a live fire training exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Aug. 28, 2013. TAUs combine dry chemic

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin)

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For veterans, prolonged exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange and JP-8 could lead to health problems down the road. Now, PFAS or per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, which can be found in water and firefighting foams, is next on the list of toxic exposure agents getting noticed by Congress.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced the PFAS Registry Act which would create a national database for service members and veterans with health issues linked to PFAS.

“The federal government has a role to play here in delivering those answers and ensuring accountability to keep our water supplies clean. Our military members dedicate their lives in service to our nation – they should have access to the information they need to keep themselves healthy and safe,” said Senator Shaheen.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of a larger class of PFAS chemicals and can be found in furniture fabric, non-stick cookware and in fire-fighting foams used by military firefighters. Drinking water can also be contaminated with the chemical if the water source is near a landfill, wastewater treatment plant or firefighter training facility.

In 2017 the DOD identified 401 active or closed military installations with known or suspected releases of the chemical. The Environmental Protection Agency found that 35 of those installations, such as Fort Leavenworth, Peterson Air Force Base, Dover Air Force Base, Joint Base Cape Cod, and Joint Base Lewis McChord, had PFAS levels exceeding the recommended limit in their drinking water.

The proposed legislation would ensure VA keeps more accurate records of veterans who could be affected by PFAS. Along with the proposed registry, there’s been a stream of initiatives to push VA and Congress to focus more attention on PFAS. 

In January, a bipartisan PFAS Task Force was launched in January to better research how the substance affects service members and their families.

New Hampshire Congressman, Chris Pappas joined the task force with the hopes of better solving how this chemical affects service members and their families.

“For decades, exposure to PFAS contaminants has put the health of our military service members and veterans at risk as they selflessly put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Pappas.

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In March, members of the task force introduced legislation that would require VA to cover treatment for health conditions associated with the exposure and make veterans eligible for service-connected disability.

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