NEWBURGH – On Monday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney visited the City of Newburgh Fire Department to announce the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act: a critical piece of legislation to better protect firefighters in New York and across the country from toxic exposure to PFAS chemicals. PFAS are used as an ingredient in special foam used to fight fires, called aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). The use of this foam, particularly at training facilities, exposes firefighters to toxic PFAS. Additionally, runoff from the use of AFFF has been discovered as the source of groundwater and drinking water contamination for communities near the facilities where it is used. PFAS chemicals have also been found in firefighters’ PPE. They have been previously linked to cancer and other serious health problems.
Specifically, the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act would ban the manufacture, importation and sale of all firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals within two years of enactment. Gillibrand’s proposed federal ban would build on New York State’s efforts to restrict PFAS containing foams. It also sets firm deadlines for airports for prohibiting the use of PFAS firefighting foams. Current law states that the FAA shall not require airports to use firefighting foam that contains PFAS. This legislation would prohibit its use by 2024.
“The dangers posed by PFAS firefighting foam, and runoff from its use, are well known and widespread. We have seen, in New York and across the country, a clear link between the use of PFAS firefighting foam at airports and on military bases and dangerous levels of PFAS in the drinking water of the surrounding communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While we can never remove all of the risks that firefighters confront on the job, this legislation would go a long way toward reducing some of the most unnecessary long-term health risks they face. I am proud to introduce this bill and I promise to fight for it until it is law.”
U.S. representative Sean Patrick Maloney said of the legislation, “Water contaminated with PFAS is harming families from coast to coast. It’s long past time the federal government gets serious about addressing every aspect of this health crisis from day one — not just after the damage is done. I’m proud to support this bill. We need forward-thinking policies at the federal level to stop the spread of PFAS, because what happened in Newburgh should never happen again. Every community should be protected from these toxic chemicals.”
“Orange County’s firefighters have made a commitment to public service and risk their own lives to save others each day. The PFAS Firefighter Protection Act will help these brave men and women perform their duties with protections designed to keep them safe and healthy. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and other serious diseases and Senator Gillibrand’s legislation is an important measure that will prevent them from being used in the future,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus.
City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey said the City of Newburgh knows all too well the effects of PFAS contamination. “We support the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act and thank Senator Gillibrand for her efforts to protect the lives and health of our firefighters, residents, and community. We need to do all we can to ensure a healthy and clean environment free from these toxic ‘forever’ chemicals for our future generations. Public safety is our number one priority.”
“I welcome the introduction of this essential legislation. Firefighting is inherently dangerous and exposes our personnel to numerous substances that are harmful to us. The products we are using to extinguish fires should not add to the already toxic load on our bodies. Going forward this legislation will reduce the number of carcinogens that firefighters across the nation are exposed to,” said City of Newburgh Fire Chief Francis Spinelli.