Press Releases

Wexton Votes to Protect Public Health and Address PFAS Contamination

Washington, January 10, 2020

Washington, DC -- Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) voted to pass the bipartisan PFAS Action Act of 2019 to regulate these harmful chemicals and clean up existing contamination. Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (referred to as PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals that are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in the environment and have been linked to dangerous health effects including cancer, damage to the immune system, infertility, impaired child development, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease.

The PFAS Action Act requires EPA to clean up contaminated sites under the Superfund program and set limits on the introduction of new PFAS chemicals. The bill also helps identify health risks associated with PFAS and establishes drinking water standards for PFAS and resources to remedy impacted water systems.

“Every American deserves to have clean drinking water and a healthy environment to live in,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “PFAS chemicals are an urgent threat to public health, and, after years of inaction from the EPA and the industries responsible for PFAS contamination, Congress is stepping in to keep our communities safe. With this legislation we are taking long overdue action to stem the flow of PFAS chemicals into our environment and protect the millions of Americans who are exposed to unsafe levels of these chemicals every day.”

PFAS chemicals are found in everyday products such as clothing, carpets, fabrics, paper packaging for food, non-stick cookware, adhesives, and firefighting foam. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is estimated that millions of Americans are exposed to unsafe levels of PFAS through their drinking water, but the likelihood of health issues resulting from PFAS depends on factors such as concentration, frequency, and duration of exposure. 

Contamination from PFAS has been found across the country, primarily near industrial facilities and Department of Defense installations. There are several, mainly military, sites impacted by PFAS in Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019, signed into law in December, included provisions to begin to address PFAS contamination, such as phasing out military use of PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, expanding reporting of PFAS discharges, and monitoring for PFAS in tap and groundwater.

The bill is supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and over 20 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

The full text of the bill can be found here

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