Scientists Urge Congress to Protect Military from Toxic Chemicals

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WASHINGTON—October 22, 2020

A group of 42 scientists submitted a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees today calling for a ban on military purchasing of certain consumer products with per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS). This would be accomplished by including a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2021 that prohibits the Defense Logistics Agency from buying products with non-essential uses of PFAS. This includes food packaging, cookware, cosmetics, sunscreens, dental floss, furniture, and carpeting.

“Due to the Department of Defense’s past use of fire-fighting foam with PFAS, some of the most contaminated groundwater in the country is found at military bases,” said Tom Bruton, a Senior Scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute. “The 2020 NDAA took the critical step of phasing out PFAS in military fire-fighting foam. This provision would further protect service members and their families by reducing other routes of exposure to these toxic chemicals.”

PFAS are associated with serious health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, decreased sperm quality, high cholesterol, and decreased response to vaccines. Because of these health harms and the chemicals’ extreme environmental persistence, a landmark consensus statement signed by more than 200 scientists in 2015 endorsed moving away from non-essential uses of PFAS.

All of the products impacted by the provision are available without PFAS. For example, retailers like Home Depot only sell carpets and rugs without PFAS. The vast majority of cosmetics and sunscreens are made without PFAS.

“With its mighty purchasing power, the military can lead the way in preventing the use of PFAS at its source—in products,” said Arlene Blum, Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “We can’t get rid of the PFAS pollution in our lakes and rivers, but we can stop adding to it. To get out of a hole, the first step is to stop digging it deeper.”

 

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