House Votes to Monitor Toxic PFAS Chemicals, Sends Bill to White House

Jul 12, 2019

In this Aug. 1, 2018 photo, Lauren Woehr pours bottled water into her 16-month-old daughter Caroline's cup at their home in Horsham, Pa. In Horsham and surrounding towns in eastern Pennsylvania, and at other sites around the United States, the foams once used routinely in firefighting training at military bases contained per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. EPA testing between 2013 and 2015 found significant amounts of PFAS in public water supplies in 33 U.S. states.
Credit Matt Rourke / AP Photo

In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives passed amendments to end military use of toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, and to expand efforts to monitor for PFAS pollution.


Amendments added to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 would:

  • Phase out military use of PFAS in firefighting foam by 2025.
  • End the use of PFAS in military food packaging.
  • Expand water quality monitoring for PFAS.
  • Ensure proper incineration of military PFAS wastes.
  • Accelerate PFAS clean-ups at military facilities.
  • Provide an additional $5 million for a PFAS study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
  • Designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under CERCLA, the Superfund law.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to study Defense Department cleanup efforts.
  • Create an online health database for military personnel.

The House also approved an amendment to restrict industrial PFAS discharges into drinking water supplies, and an amendment to designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law.

These fluorinated chemicals were long used in the Ohio Valley for use in nonstick cookware and other products and have since contaminated a number of drinking water systems. The chemicals were linked to cancer and reproductive harm through health monitoring research conducted in the region. PFAS have since been found in the drinking water of millions of Americans, according to research conducted by the Environmental Working Group. The group created an interactive map that lists contaminated sites across the country.

West Virginia’s Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito was among lawmakers to originally propose amendments to the defense bill. The Senate approved the measures last month.

A statement from the White House earlier this week indicates that the president will be advised to veto the bill, in part because of these amendments.