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Kildee Secures $80 Million for Firefighters to Purchase PFAS-Free Equipment

September 9, 2021
Press Release

FLINT—Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, has secured $80 million in President Joe Biden’s budget reconciliation bill for fire departments in Michigan and across the country to replace firefighting foam and gear that contains toxic per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) chemicals. 

As a member of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, Congressman Kildee has been leading the effort to secure additional federal funding to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as Congress advances a budget through the reconciliation process. The committee’s budget reconciliation bill, which includes the $80 million secured by Kildee for PFAS-free gear for firefighters, passed committee this evening. 

“For decades, firefighters have been exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals, which we know are unsafe,” said Congressman Kildee. “This funding will ensure that fire departments don’t have to choose between removing these toxic forever chemicals from their equipment or purchasing safer alternatives. Thanks to the leadership of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, the U.S. House of Representatives continues to take significant steps to address PFAS contamination. Today’s federal funding continues that effort and helps to protect the firefighters who are dedicated to protecting us.”

Exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer as well as thyroid, kidney, liver, heart and reproductive problems. Firefighters are primarily exposed to PFAS chemicals through firefighting foam and gear made with these forever chemicals. Fortunately, PFAS-free firefighting foam alternatives are effective and readily available, and federal funding will assist local fire departments in replacing and properly disposing of this harmful foam.

“Firefighters and emergency medical responders are routinely exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals which have been linked to serious health problems including cancer, the leading cause of death among our members today. Deploying safe alternative firefighting foams and PFAS-free turnout gear is a critical step forward in safeguarding firefighters and the public from these ‘forever chemicals,’” said Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “I am grateful to Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for their leadership in helping fund the purchase and deployment of safe alternative PFAS-free foams and turnout gear.”

“Firefighters are disproportionately exposed to the toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, Environmental Working Group. “EWG applauds Reps. Kildee and McGovern for making investments in PFAS-free gear and firefighting foam a priority for budget reconciliation. Firefighters take enormous risks to keep us safe. We should do everything we can to keep them safe from toxic chemicals.”

“This funding will go a long way towards helping departments remove and replace foam and turn out gear with PFAS in them,” said Michael Sarnowski, President of Bangor Township Fire Fighters, IAFF Local #1682. “Thank you for supporting this funding to help departments like ours get the materials we need to not only do the job we love but also do it safely—without having to worry about long term health issues from the items meant to keep us safe.”

“In the fire service, we work together as a team, which is commonly known as having each other’s backs,” said Captain Aileen Pettinger, Saginaw Fire Department. “We are grateful that Congressman Kildee always has our backs in Washington, D.C., in this case by attaining funds for PFSA-free turnout gear and foam so we can continue to protect the public without further PFAS exposure.”

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Dan Kildee’s PFAS Action Act, comprehensive legislation to protect Americans from PFAS chemicals. Congressman Kildee has worked with Republicans and Democrats at all levels of government to address PFAS contamination. Kildee has previously introduced legislation to speed up set a national drinking water standard for PFASclean-up efforts, and detect PFAS contamination at other sites across the country.