PORTSMOUTH — The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act has secured an additional $10 million to continue a health impact study on the affects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances on humans.
A portion of that money will go to continuing the study within the Pease community in Portsmouth, where thousands of people who served on the Air Force Base and worked at the tradeport were exposed to PFAS chemicals through occupational hazards and contaminated drinking water.
“This bill ensures that the health impact study at Pease will continue to move forward without delay and addresses occupational exposure, which impacts our firefighters and military members at a higher rate,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, said in a statement.
Shaheen is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and works year-round to craft the annual budget, according to her staff members.
Firefighting foam is what experts blame the exposure in Portsmouth on. The act prohibits its use in the military after Oct. 1, 2024, and requires that the Department of Defense include blood testing for PFAS as part of regular physicals for military firefighters.
The act also requires federal facilities, including military and National Guard installations, to expedite cooperative agreements with states to address PFAS contamination and add PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory.
Shaheen and her team said some reforms which had bipartisan support were substantially weakened. They may come up in future legislation.
“Our work must not end here — remediating polluted sites, investing in research and development to find alternatives to PFAS and understanding the full health implications related to PFAS exposure must remain top congressional priorities,” Shaheen said in a statement.
Andrea Amico, cofounder of Testing for Pease, said on Thursday afternoon that the health studies supported by these funds are critical in helping communities in New Hampshire and across the country get more answers, but more scientific studies are needed to better understand the health effects PFAS will have in humans.
“I’m so appreciative of Senator Shaheen’s leadership and dedication to making sure these health studies are provided to the Pease community and to many other PFAS impacted communities across the nation,” Amico said.
The act has come under fire from leaders at Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit organization. They say the “bill falls short of the progress needed for communities struggling with contaminated water.”
PFAS has been detected in the water in 1,400 communities and nearly 300 military bases, they say.
“While it’s good news that the Defense Department will finally phase out PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, communities desperately need Congress to tackle industrial PFAS releases into the air and water and to require DOD to cleanup legacy PFAS pollution,” Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has said he will sign the act into law, according to Shaheen staff members.