Rosen Applauds Nearly $330,000 in NSF Grant Funding Awarded to UNR for Research to Better Mitigate Harmful Chemical Exposure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released the following statement applauding the National Science Foundation (NSF) for awarding grant funding totaling $329,938 to the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) for a project to identify, measure, and mitigate exposure to PFAS, a classification of harmful chemicals that are toxic to humans.

“PFAS are harmful chemicals that negatively impact our health and contaminate our environment,” said Senator Rosen. “I’m proud to see that the National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Nevada, Reno this grant to fund their research to better identify, measure, and mitigate exposure to these dangerous chemicals, which are often used in extinguishing fires. This research will allow us a greater understanding of the risks that PFAS presents, and more safely utilize them in firefighting.”

BACKGROUND: Aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) are used primarily to extinguish fuel fires. AFFFs consist of mixtures of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals that are toxic to humans. Their persistence in groundwater is well known, but less is known about their potential to become gasses and contaminate the air.

AFFFs contain large concentrations of PFAS compounds. Although the human health risk from exposure to PFAS in water is well characterized, comparatively little is known about human exposure to PFAS from gaseous sources. Such knowledge is critical to accurately assess exposure to population subsets such as firefighters that may be exposed to greater concentrations than the general population.

The recent Senate Armed Services Committee-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (NDAA) includes a Rosen led amendment that would require that the Department of Defense (DOD) publicly disclose the results of any PFAS testing conducted on or at areas surrounding military installations, in order to inform servicemembers and military families of the potential risk of exposure to this hazardous substance.

Last Congress, Senator Rosen co-sponsored the PFAS Act, bipartisan legislation to require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop guidance for firefighters and other emergency responders on training, education, and best practices to protect them from exposure to PFAS and to limit or prevent the release of PFAS in the environment. The bill would also require FEMA to issue guidance on alternative foams, personal protective equipment, and other firefighting tools that do not contain PFAS. This bipartisan legislation passed the Senate in December 2020.

In 2019, Rosen also co-sponsored the PFAS Action Act, bipartisan legislation to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate all PFAS substances as hazardous.