WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown joined a group of bipartisan colleagues in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), requesting that the agencies take additional steps to ensure that the health effects of occupational exposure to per-and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS), particularly in firefighters, are sufficiently studied.

Brown’s letter is in response to ATSDR Director Patrick Breysse’s announcement that firefighters will not be included in an ATSDR study on the health impacts of PFAS. Firefighters, both military and civilian, work in environments that have higher exposure to PFAS, which are found in firefighting foam. 

“Firefighters are a vital component of our nation's emergency response system and risk their lives to protect the communities they serve. There is a critical need to better understand how PFAS workplace exposure among firefighters may affect the health of these heroes and their families,” wrote the Senators.

ATSDR operates under the CDC. The PFAS health impact study allows for the agencies to investigate the human health effects of PFAS contamination through a number of exposure pathways, including those encountered by firefighters. However earlier this year, ATSDR announced that firefighters would not be included in the study. In their letter, the Senators request that the agencies ensure future studies investigating the potential health effects from PFAS exposure include firefighters and others who are more likely to come into contact with contamination in an occupational setting.

The letter can be read in full here.

In September, President Trump signed a spending package that included $1 million in funds for Brown’s Firefighter Cancer Registry Actwhich requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and maintain a voluntary registry to collect data on cancer incidence among firefighters. The data collected by the registry will be used with existing state data to better assess and prevent cancer among firefighters. 

In addition to establishing the volunteer registry, Brown’s bill requires the CDC to develop a strategy to maximize participation, develop guidance for state agencies, and encourage inclusion among participants and to seek feedback from nonfederal experts. The CDC would also be required to ensure the data collected is made public and accessible for research.