WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) today applauded passage of his provision permitting airports to discontinue use of fire-fighting foams containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other serious health issues. Currently, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations require airports to use firefighting foams that contain Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a group of approximately 4,700 toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer as well as a wide variety of thyroid, kidney, liver, heart, reproductive and autoimmune problems. The FAA standard is based on a Department of Defense (DoD) specification that the military is actively transitioning away from.
“It makes no sense that airports should be required to adhere to a military specification that even the Department of Defense deems unsafe,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I am pleased that my provision will soon be signed into law, allowing airports to phase out PFAS-based firefighting foam, protecting firefighters, as well as local residents from potential groundwater contamination.”
The legislation aims to address the high volume of requests from airports battling current and potential future environmental hazards and remediation costs due to PFAS-related contamination. The Peters language will open pathways for state, commercial and private airports to adhere to the National Fire Protection Association’s widely used performance standard the Aircraft Rescue and Fire-fighting Services at Airports, into their daily operations. The legislation will not prevent airports from using fluorinated compounds if they still wish to use them, but airports will no longer be required to do so. It is supported by the Airports Council International, the American Association of Airport Executives, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Last week, at Peters’ request, the Senate held its first hearing on PFAS chemicals in the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, on which Peters serves as Ranking Member.
Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, included report language in recent defense legislation encouraging DoD’s work to use fluorine-free firefighting foam. He also helped introduce bipartisan legislation to hold federal agencies accountable for properly addressing PFAS contamination at military bases across the country and setting clear deadlines and reporting requirements for all ongoing PFAS decontaminating projects.