House passes PFAS Action Act to address crisis, protect people from harm of ‘forever chemicals’

PFAS contamination is a major issue on French Island because of firefighting foam previously used at the La Crosse Regional Airport
Pfas Body
This Wisconsin DNR graphic indicates decreasing levels of peril from PFAS the farther exposure is removed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKBT) — The U.S. House passed the PFAS Action Act Thursday, intended to improve national drinking water standards and protect people and the environment from harmful “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.
Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, who co-sponsored the measure, also introduced additional legislation to increase access to testing for PFAS.

“PFAS contamination is an issue that hits close to home for too many Wisconsinites,” Kind said. “It’s something my neighbors and I in La Crosse dealt with recently, and now the Eau Claire community is being affected as well.”

The bill, H.R. 2467, passed the House by 241-183, with the `183 negative votes coming from Republicans, compared with 23 who voted for the PFAS act, which aims to:

  • Ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes a national drinking water standard for certain forever chemicals within two years to address the PFAS crisis and improve protection for public health.
  • Require the EPA to place discharge limits on industrial releases of PFAS and provide $200 million annually for wastewater treatment.
  • Jump-start cleanup at polluted sites across the country.
  • Mandate comprehensive PFAS health testing.
  • Prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes and place a moratorium on the introduction of new PFAS into commerce.
  • Create a voluntary label for PFAS in cookware and other products.

PFAS contamination has become a major issue in many states, including several counties in Wisconsin, because of well contamination from the “forever chemicals” — so named because they dissipate so slowly. Exposure to high amounts of PFAS is linked to infertility, thyroid disease and cancer, among other illnesses.
In La Crosse County, the contamination has been especially problematic on French Island, where more than 500 private wells and several public ones have tested positive for PFAS.
PFAS used in the firefighting foam sprayed at the La Crosse Regional Airport are blamed for the French Island contamination.

“No Wisconsinite should have to worry about whether or not their drinking water is safe, or if their family might be exposed to these harmful chemicals,” Kind said.
Companies also have used PFAS chemicals to make products water and stain-resistant, including carpets, clothing, furniture and cookware.

Last month, the “No PFAS in Cosmetics Act” was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate after a study found high levels of a marker for toxic PFAS substances in 52% of 231 makeup products bought in the United States and Canada.