Congresswoman Barbara Lee Votes to Protect the Health of California Families, Clean Up Dangerous PFAS Chemicals

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) voted to protect California families from exposure to dangerous PFAS chemicals with H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act.  This legislation will clean up these “forever chemicals,” which pose a direct threat to public health, and introduce stronger protections against future pollution.

“For too long these chemicals have been allowed to linger in our communities as big corporations put their profits before people,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Environmental justice is a racial justice and economic justice issue. Our children and families deserve safe water to drink, air to breathe and food to eat. As Democrats in Congress work to Build Back Better from this crisis, this landmark bill is a critical step toward ensuring every community can enjoy a cleaner, safer future.”

PFAS chemicals represent a serious public health risk to nearly all Americans, as the CDC has reported that nearly every American has PFAS in their blood.  These chemicals have exposed countless men, women and children to life-threatening illness and disease, including multiple forms of cancer, liver disease, asthmas, thyroid dysfunction, infertility and impaired child development.  

A new study published last week shows that, based on EPA data, an estimated 30,000 industrial sites are known or suspected of using toxic PFAS: twelve times what had been previously estimated.  American servicemembers and their families are also at particular risk of exposure, as more than 400 U.S. military sites are known to have PFAS contamination. 

By passing the PFAS Action Act, the House makes important progress toward cleaning up our communities and holding contaminating companies accountable for their pollution.  This legislation designates the two most studied PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances by the EPA and sets a deadline for the EPA to make designation decisions about all other PFAS chemicals – which has been a key barrier to cleaning up industrial and military sites.  The bill also creates new, robustly funded grants and partnerships to help states with clean-up and remediation efforts.  To prevent future contamination, the bill introduces stricter limits on PFAS pollution and the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, as well tougher testing, reporting and monitoring requirements.

House Democrats fought hard to include the PFAS Action Act’s critical funding and provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act two years ago, but Senate Republicans stripped these measures from the NDAA before it was signed into law.  Last year, House Democrats passed the PFAS Action Act of 2019 on a strong bipartisan vote – but the bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate.  Today, the House passed this important legislation on another strong bipartisan vote, and it now heads to the Democratic Senate for consideration.