Haaland Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen PFAS Testing in Military Servicemembers, Families

October 28, 2020
Press Release

Albuquerque, N.M. – Last week, U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (NM-01) introduced a bipartisan bill with Representatives Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Mike Turner (R-OH), and Bill Posey (R-FL) to protect military servicemembers and their families from PFAS “forever chemicals” contamination, which have been shown to lead to adverse health effects. According to data from the Department of Defense, there are over 700 current and former military installations with known or suspected PFAS contamination.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are more than 200 military sites across the country with known PFAS contamination in drinking water or groundwater. In New Mexico, tests have detected PFAS in on-base groundwater on and near Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, where 31,000 residents rely on groundwater within the Tularosa Basin. PFAS has also been found to contaminate water on and near Cannon Air Force Base. Cannon AFB is located near Clovis, N.M., a community of about 39,000 where agricultural operations have been disrupted by the contamination. Contamination at both sites is expected to be due to the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS. 

“Coming from a military family, I know firsthand all that our military families sacrifice throughout their service. That’s why I’m proud to have introduced the PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act with my colleagues across the aisle, to continue protecting our military service members and their families. This bill will increase testing and tracking of PFAS contamination, allowing us to curb any adverse effects from exposure,” said Rep. Haaland, member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act takes bold steps to strengthen testing and tracking PFAS exposure in servicemembers, by mandating blood testing for PFAS chemicals for those who may have been exposed, and allowing military families to also get tested for PFAS exposure. The bill also opens up testing to former servicemembers and their families, allowing them to get tested at no cost.

The PFAS Exposure Assessment and Documentation Act would:

  • Require PFAS exposure evaluation during periodic health assessments. The bill would require the DoD to include in routine service member health assessments an evaluation and documentation of possible exposure to PFAS. 
  • Require PFAS blood testing for service members. The bill would require PFAS blood testing of a service member who may have been exposed to PFAS during their annual periodic health assessment (PHA) if it is determined they were stationed at one of the more than 700 military installations contaminated by PFAS. This information would be recorded in the service member’s medical record, and added to a registry.
  • Make available PFAS blood testing for military families. The bill allows for dependents of a service member who was stationed at a PFAS contaminated base to elect to get a PFAS blood test covered under TRICARE—the military health insurance.  It would also require DOD to cover the cost of a former service member and their family to elect to get a PFAS blood test, if they are no longer covered under TRICARE, but were stationed at PFAS contaminated military bases during their career. 
  • Require documentation of service members exposed to PFAS. The bill would require DoD and the VA to enter into agreement that information about PFAS exposure would be shared with the VA upon service member separation; it would also require DoD to maintain a registry of service members exposed, with the option for individuals to opt out of inclusion in such a registry; and share information about exposure with service members who were found to be exposed to PFAS contamination, whether on a base with known contamination or from periodic health assessments.

This bill is a part of Representative Haaland’s ongoing work to protect servicemembers, their families, and New Mexicans from PFAS exposure. Last year, Haaland and the New Mexico delegation introduced the PFAS Damages Act to provide relief to communities and businesses affected by PFAS, including farms and ranches in New Mexico that have been upended by PFAS contamination from Cannon Air Force Base. The bill was included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as an amendment from Senator Martin Heinrich during committee consideration, while the House delegation successfully included a key portion of the bill in the House version of the NDAA.