Floor Speech on H.R. 2467, the PFAS Action Act of 2021, Comprehensive Legislation to Clean Up Dangerous ‘Forever Chemicals’

July 21, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 2467, the PFAS Action Act of 2021, comprehensive legislation to protect communities from dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) ‘forever chemicals.’  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for his extraordinary leadership as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and thank him for bringing this important legislation to the Floor.  I thank Mr. Tonko for his leadership as Chair of the Subcommittee of jurisdiction, Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee.  And thank Mr. McKinley, the Ranking Member on that Committee. 

I respectfully disagree with the Ranking Member of the full Committee, and I'll tell you why.  I join our colleagues in support of PFAS Action Act to address the serious public health issue.  It's a threat, really: PFAS chemicals, which are contaminating the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat. 

First, I salute Representative Debbie Dingell, a crusader in our mission to protect our communities from dangerous PFAS chemicals.  Thank you, again, as I say, to Chairman Pallone and to Chairman Tonko and Ranking Member McKinley. 

Mr. Speaker, PFAS are referred to as ‘forever chemicals,’ so-called because they do not easily break down and accumulate over time.  And right now, they're exposing millions of Americans to health risks, ranging from cancer to asthma, liver disease to thyroid dysfunction.  For babies, for babies, they can be particularly devastating, with prenatal exposure potentially leading to abnormal growth in utero, low birth weight, increased risk of childhood obesity and infections.  Our distinguished Chairman enumerated other threats to the health and well-being of the American people. 

When people ask me what are the three most important issues facing the Congress, I always say the same thing: our children, our children, our children.  Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a safe, clean environment where they can thrive, a world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.  PFAS, Mr. Speaker, chemicals are clearly and seriously harming to our children's health. 

As a coalition of public health groups – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Medical Association and Children's Environmental Health Network – have written, and I quote, ‘These ubiquitous substances pose severe health risks across the United States and represent a growing threat to public health.’

They further say, ‘PFAS are particularly dangerous… widespread and likely present in the drinking water of tens of millions of Americans.’

Further, ‘Developing infants and children are particularly vulnerable to PFAS exposure.  Of concern, almost all fetuses and infants will have some degree of exposure to PFAS… PFAS exposure before birth or in early childhood has been associated with decreased birth weight, effects on renal function and lipid serum levels and immune system dysfunction.’

No, let me repeat, that statement was from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Medical Association and Children's Environmental Health Network.

In addition to our children and young people being affected, PFAS also poses a serious risk to America's servicemembers.  There's an epidemic of contamination on military sites, and more than 400 sites across the United States are affected.  I've had the privilege, Mr. Speaker, of hearing the concerns of many of these families, and it's not just about the servicemembers.  It's about their children.  It's about their children who are affected.  It is unacceptable that the men and women who sacrifice to keep us safe around the world face this danger to their health and that of their children here at home. 

Yet, despite these obvious and well-known risks, big corporations have for decades failed or refused to prevent their spread.  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.  We cannot accept the situation where big special interests' bottom line comes before public lives. 

To address this crisis, two years ago, Democrats crafted strong legislation to rid our communities of PFAS.  Many Democrats and many Members here played a key role in crafting PFAS-related bills that were included in the bipartisan NDAA agreement reached by – in the House that year.  Thank you to Chairman Smith and the Members of the Committee.  Unfortunately, the GOP Senate then refused to support full protections against PFAS chemicals and cut those key provisions from the NDAA – that's the National Defense Authorization Act. 

Last year, House Democrats passed the PFAS Action Act of 2019, which passed with strong bipartisan support but did not become law because Mitch McConnell senselessly refused to take it up in the Senate. 

Now, the Democratic House will once again pass the PFAS Action Act and send it to the Senate.  We are making clear that this legislation is a priority for the American people, and we will not relent until it is enacted. 

This legislation will clean up our communities by designating the two most studied PFAS as hazardous substances by the EPA and setting a deadline for the EPA to make designation decisions about all other PFAS chemicals.  Next, creating new well-funded grants and partnerships with states to help clean up and remedy sites.  And it will stem the tide of further contamination with tough new testing, reporting and monitoring requirements, strict limits on the introduction of new PFAS chemicals, limits on air pollution and banning unsafe incineration and strong measures to hold contaminating companies accountable.  I spend the time to be so specific because this is such a threat to the health and well-being of our children, our children, our children. 

I urge a strong vote for this legislation, which honors our first responsibility of Congress: to keep the American people safe.  And, with that, I yield back the balance of my time.