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Our Campaigns

Clean Water: No Toxics On Tap

Goal: Protect our drinking water from toxic PFAS contamination.
Everyone deserves clean water to drink. But across the country, the drinking water of millions of Americans is tainted by toxic chemicals called PFAS, which are linked to cancer and other severe illnesses. One significant source is PFAS in firefighting foam that continues to be used at U.S. military bases despite the availability of safer alternatives. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to require the military to stop using PFAS as soon as possible.
  • <h4>Toxic PFAS in our drinking water</h4><h5>Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans.</h5><em>Public Domain via Maxpixel.com</em>
  • <h4>PFAS harms our health</h4><h5>Exposure to PFAS has been linked to cancer, immune system deficiencies, high cholesterol and low fertility, as well as developmental issues in children and infants.</h5><em>U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel</em>
  • <h4>It’s in firefighting foam</h4><h5>Firefighting foam used on U.S. military bases is a major source of PFAS — and nearly 300 military bases have known contamination.</h5><em>Ken Wright/Air Force</em>
  • <h4>Turn off the tap on PFAS</h4><h5>Safer PFAS-free foams already exist and have been adopted by militaries and airports in Denmark, Norway and the U.K. We can do the same here in the U.S.</h5><em>wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock.com</em>
The 'forever chemicals' in our water

Already, the drinking water of millions of Americans has been contaminated with toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. One major source of PFAS contamination is the firefighting foams used on U.S. military bases, which present significant threats to our health and that of our planet. PFAS don’t break down in the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals,” and can be found almost everywhere in small concentrations. The Pentagon has already identified nearly 300 military bases across the country with known contamination — and the number of contaminated sites continues to grow, endangering nearby communities.

Research links PFAS exposure in humans to cancer, immune system deficiencies, high cholesterol and low fertility, and even developmental issues in children and infants. Moreover, the health impacts of PFAS are magnified because the chemicals accumulate in the food chain and persist in the environment indefinitely.

Environment America Advocate Bart Johnsen-Harris (center left) and NRDC's Jennifer Sass (far left) joined U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (center) on Capitol Hill to call for strong protections against PFAS.
CREDIT: @RepDanKildee/Twitter
Time to phase out PFAS chemicals

Allowing the widespread use of toxic chemicals that last forever virtually guarantees that our sources of drinking water will become contaminated. That is why we must act now to phase out the use of PFAS wherever we can.

In an age of remarkable technological progress, we should be able to put out fires safely and effectively without putting our lives and our environment at risk from toxic chemicals.

In fact, we know we can. Highly-effective PFAS-free foams are already on the market and have been successfully adopted by several other militaries, including those in Denmark and Norway, in addition to major international airports such as Heathrow in London.

So what can we do to protect our drinking water from PFAS?

RIGHT NOW: So far, we have convinced both the House and Senate to approve separate bills that would require the military to phase out the use of PFAS chemicals at its bases.  Now we are calling on Congress to send a final bill to the president, so we can stop this source of PFAS contamination as soon as possible.

OUR NEXT STEPS: Protecting our drinking water from PFAS contamination will require other steps. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration can ensure that civilian airports rapidly transition to PFAS-free foams. And we need to stop using these toxic chemicals for more trivial purposes as well — such as nonstick pans and non-stain fabrics. At the very least, we'll need the Environmental Protection Agency to stop manufacturers from dumping PFAS into our waterways. 

WATCH: Former farm manager Susan Gordon tells the story of how her Colorado farm was shut down in 2016 after toxic PFAS contamination leached from a nearby Air Force base.

Protecting our water for 30 years

We know we can make a difference on this issue.

Over the past 30 years, our national network has been a leader in protecting clean water. We’ve done extensive research and policy work to address toxic threats to drinking water such as lead. We also bring our strong track record of engaging the public to protect clean water — including winning the landmark Clean Water Rule.

Protecting our drinking water from PFAS will require us to act where and when it matters most. We have staff in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as members in every state.

Our success also depends on gaining support that transcends the partisan divide. That’s why we worked with U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle to pass a three-year phaseout for military PFAS by an overwhelming vote of 86–8.

Nobody wants to drink water contaminated with toxic chemicals. Join us in urging our members of Congress to ban PFAS in military firefighting foams and, together, we can all look forward to the day when we can turn off the tap on PFAS.

ACT NOW

We should be able to put out fires safely and effectively without putting our lives and our environment at risk from toxic PFAS chemicals — especially when PFAS-free alternatives already exist. Tell Congress to require the U.S. military to stop using PFAS foams by 2023.