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A Toxic Foam Coverup
A Whistleblower Exposes The Government’s Inaction To Protect Military Firefighters
As many of you may remember, I testified before Congress earlier this year about the harm and impact of PFAS “forever chemicals” to those living on or near current and former military bases. You can read my full statement here.
During that time, we also talked with Kevin Ferrara, a retired U.S. Air Force firefighter, who was exposed to PFAS from years of direct and indirect contact with Aqueous Film Forming Foam. Also known as AFFF (many call it A-triple-F), this product was used by military and civilian fire departments to fight flammable liquid fires like aircraft fuel from the 1970s on.
During his service, Kevin was told that this foam was no different from soap, but AFFF contains PFAS chemicals, which studies show are linked to cancer and other health problems.
Now he, and many of the friends and colleagues he served with, are sick.
Kevin reached out to us this week after he received his blood test results. Not surprisingly, he has elevated levels of PFAS.
“Thirty years after I started my military career, I have detectable levels of PFAS in my blood that certainly has impacted my body and caused me to develop various medical conditions,” he said.
But what he’s most upset about are documents and emails that show the Department of Defense knew that AFFF could cause health issues and failed to act to protect firefighters. You can read the full story here.
In 2011, the Defense Department’s Emerging Chemical Program issued a “risk alert” detailing the hazards PFAS found in the foam, but no action was taken.
“Therefore, DoD officials were not required to plan, program, and budget for any actions in response to the 2011 risk alert,” according to an inspector general report. Officials “did not require proactive risk management actions for PFAS‑containing AFFF until 2016.”
This year, Congress required the DoD to document PFAS exposure levels by blood testing during firefighters’ annual physicals. But the Veteran’s Administration is not testing former service members or recommending testing for any individual.
Recent studies show that firefighters have higher levels of PFAS in their blood than the average American.
Other first responders are also affected by this issue, as local and airport fire departments use AFFF to this day. Some states have banned its use including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Washington.
You can stay informed on these issues by listening to Kevin’s podcast.
Legislation To Help
The Build Back Better bill passed by the House in November does include $95 million for local fire departments to purchase firefighting foam and gear made without toxic PFAS.
Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern and Michigan Representative Dan Kildee led the effort to include the funding in the bill, along with nearly 70 other members of Congress.
“Chemical companies and firefighting foam companies hid the risks of PFAS for decades,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs in a statement. “As a result, firefighters handled the foam for decades without understanding the risks or taking precautions to limit their exposures.”
Let’s keep the pressure on!
Furious about the DoD dragging their feet? Let us know in the comments below.