U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the use of firefighting foams, which include perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) that are now widely found in the nation’s food supply.
The legislation has been put forward by the House Armed Services Committee, as a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (PDF) for fiscal year 2020, more commonly referred to as the annual defense bill. A similar provision has been put forward for the Senate version of the bill, although there are slight differences.
In the House version of the provision, the Pentagon would have to cease using aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) made with PFAS chemicals on military bases by September 30, 2029. The Senate version of the provision calls for the military to stop procurement of PFAS-based firefighting foam by October 1, 2022 and would prohibit their use in all but ocean-going vessels by October 1, 2022.
PFASs are chemical substances used to manufacture a number of products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and firefighting foams.
The chemicals are projected to take thousands of years to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.
PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. However, since then, the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.
Earlier this month, a federal investigation found that PFAS chemicals are commonly found in numerous food products, including meats, seafood, chocolate, cake and other products. However, the FDA released a statement indicating that the levels found do not raise health concerns, based on the best available science.
3M Company, Tyco Fire Products and Chemguard, Inc. face dozens of fire-fighting foam lawsuits filed by both individuals and municipalities nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the companies knew or should have known about the risks associated with exposure to PFAS within its AFFF, which has been used by the military over the last several decades during routine fire extinguishing exercises at military bases nationwide.
According to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012, exposure may also suppress the immune system and limit the ability of the body to create antibodies in response to childhood vaccines.