M. Speaker, I rise in support of the PFAS Act.
PFAS refers to a large group of high-strength, high-durability chemicals used in industry and consumer products. They are critical to the reliable and safe function of essential products like cellphones, military aircraft, solar panels, wind turbines, and medical devices.
Because of their durability, they don’t break down easily and last a long time in the environment. In some cases--but not all--that creates hazards to human health. There are more than 5,000 strands of PFAS in use, and their tremendous variation means we need to take a thoughtful and nuanced approach to regulating them.
We absolutely need to protect the health and safety of firefighters, the military, and individuals exposed to harmful PFAS. That means preventing exposure to unsafe PFAS and addressing PFAS contamination now.
But not all PFAS are harmful and some are indispensable for things like fighting fires and protecting our service men and women from chemical warfare. Others are used for lithium batteries and solar energy equipment.
So my concern about some of the legislation on PFAS is that they would ban their use entirely, even when that might not be necessary. The fact is that we don’t fully understand the properties of all PFAS. Maybe a newly created strand has better fire suppression power and dissolves in a solution. Or another has absolutely no human health effects and breaks down organically. We simply don’t know yet and we can’t shut the door on innovation.
The Science Committee is working hard to improve and expand our knowledge about PFAS so we can make individual determinations about what is safe and what is not.
For example, this summer the House passed our Federal PFAS Research Evaluation Act, which directs the National Academies study the toxicity, effects, and behavior of different strands of PFAS. It also will study emerging PFAS strands in hopes of finding more harmless strains with effective and useful properties.
This is groundbreaking research, and it can’t be done overnight. So while the experts are working on it, my fellow Science Committee Members and I urge the rest of this body to respect the scientific process.
Do not pass legislation that outright eliminates all 5,000+ stands of PFAS without the scientific understanding to support that decision.
Here’s the good news: the bill we’re considering today isn’t intended to put us on a path towards banning PFAS. While some of the language could be construed by a creative mind to be broadly anti-PFAS, I know that is not the intention of the sponsors of this bill from Michigan, nor is it the intention of the Science Committee.
To further support this, I would like to yield time to the gentlewoman from Michigan to engage in a colloquy on her intent related to this bill.
I want to thank the gentlewoman for her remarks and agreement. We both share the understanding that instead of banning PFAS, this bill focuses on education, understanding, and knowledge of these chemicals.
Specifically, it will ensure we are protecting our firefighters who rely on PFAS to extinguish fires. There aren’t many alternatives to PFAS when it comes to fighting fires. But firefighters put their lives at risk every day and this bill will ensure they aren’t facing long-term health risk simply because of the equipment and tools they use daily.
We can mitigate harmful effects by carefully studying what chemicals first responders are exposed to and ensuring they are properly educated about safety procedures and risks. The curriculum authorized by this bill does just that. We’re focusing on education, understanding, and knowledge. And so I support its passage today.
When the time comes, I have every intention of working with the Gentlewoman from Michigan to make sure we’re targeting the truly bad PFAS – those with health and environmental effects.
But for now, I appreciate that my friends on the other side of the aisle are leaving the door open for future developments and letting science determine the outcome, not politics.
M. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.