Gardner introduces bipartisan bill to study toxic chemicals in firefighter gear

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) recently unveiled bipartisan legislation to prevent America’s firefighters against exposure to toxic chemicals in their protective gear.

Sen. Gardner on Sept. 19 cosponsored the Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act, S. 2525, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to require the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct a study of personal protective equipment worn by firefighters to determine the prevalence and concentration of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, according to the congressional record.

“Our firefighters and emergency responders in Colorado and around the country risk everything to protect our communities, and it is our duty to make sure we have accurate research to understand and mitigate any PFAS exposure during emergency response and training activities,” Sen. Gardner said.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in numerous industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body — meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time,” the EPA says. “There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.”

If enacted, the study authorized under S. 2525 also would determine firefighters’ risk of exposure to PFAS.

Additionally, Sen. Gardner said the NIST study would be used to “fund research into alternatives to the chemicals that will reduce or eliminate the possibility of PFAS exposure.”

The bill also would establish a federal grant program to advance the development of safe alternatives to PFAS chemicals in personal protective equipment.

The measure has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.