The ‘war’ over PFAS forever chemicals: Pentagon says banning toxins would threaten NATIONAL SECURITY – because they’re used to make weapons
- Congress has pressured the Defense Department to eliminate PFAS
- But the DoD says PFAS is essential for its equipment, weapons and vehicles
- READ MORE: Minnesota is poised to become the first US state to ban ‘forever chemicals’
The Pentagon has warned that broad bans aimed at removing harmful chemicals from everyday items could threaten US national security.
Regulators across the country are proposing a ban on PFAS chemicals – also known as “forever chemicals” – which are found in thousands of products and have been linked to cancer and infertility.
The Department of Defense (DoD) depends on thousands of weapons and products such as uniforms, batteries and microelectronics that contain PFAS, the department said.
In a report quietly submitted to Congress in August, the Defense Department said: “Losing access to PFAS due to overbroad regulation or severe market contractions would have a major impact on national security and the ability of the DoD to fulfill its mission.”
PFAS chemicals are used in coatings for uniforms to make them water-repellent, in brake fluid for airplanes and helicopters, in wire and cable insulation in submarines, and in missiles to improve the performance and stability of explosives
The report added that the chemicals were “critical” for maintaining technology and items that ensure “military readiness and sustainment.”
Microelectronic chips, lithium-ion batteries, helicopters, torpedoes and tanks all contain PFAS chemicals, as do shoes, tents and duffel bags.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated compounds, are man-made chemicals that are present in parts of everyday objects because they make things nonstick, waterproof, and oil-resistant.
They have been linked to several lasting health problems, including several types of cancer, as well as low birth weight, thyroid problems and developmental delays in children.
Military personnel may be at greater risk since the Department of Defense began using aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which contains PFAS, to extinguish certain types of fires.
AFFF is a fire-resistant foam that is very effective, but is now known to be toxic to humans.
The release of these chemicals into the environment also led to PFAS-contaminated water around military bases.
Thousands of firefighters and military personnel have taken manufacturing companies to court over fears they have been exposed to the dangerous, forever chemicals. seeing above average cancer rates among their ranks.
PFAS chemicals are used in coatings for uniforms to make them water-repellent, in brake fluid for airplanes and helicopters, in wire and cable insulation in submarines, and in missiles to improve the performance and stability of explosives.
A government study published in July showed a direct link between testicular cancer and PFOS, a type of PFAS chemical that has shown up in the blood of thousands of military personnel.
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed limits for the chemicals in drinking water for the first time.
And under the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, the Pentagon was tasked with assessing the pervasiveness of PFAS in military equipment.
The Defense Department said it would halt purchases of firefighting foam containing PFAS by the end of the year and phase it out completely by 2025.
It had already stopped using the foam during training in 2020, as ordered by Congress.
The Defense Department said that while new Navy ships are being built using alternative fire-resistant mechanisms such as water mist, there remains “limited use of (PFAS-containing systems) for those areas where the alternatives are not suitable.”
There is no alternative foam that can be exchanged for existing ships. According to the report, “the safety and survivability of Navy vessels and crews” depends on PFAS-based firefighting foam currently in use until an effective alternative is found.