HORSHAM, PA — U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, whose district covers much of Montgomery County, was among lawmakers Thursday who introduced bills that would let people exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals sue their manufacturers.
Dean joined New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, in introducing the legislation in both the House and Senate. It would allow people exposed to the chemicals seek the cost of regular medical monitoring to detect health problems associated with them.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals resistant to heat, water and oil which persist in the environment and the human body.
In the area around the Montgomery-Bucks county line, the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer and other diseases, are believed to have leached into the groundwater from a firefighting foam used at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove, officials have said.
In Horsham, contaminated water led to Aqua Pennsylvania shutting downs its wells, and spurred widespread concerns about the safety of drinking water in the region.
The naval base was closed in 2011 and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard has taken over the site.
“The diseases linked to PFAS exposure –, and more – can take years to develop,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit focused on public-health issues including clean drinking water. “Allowing people who have been exposed to PFAS to sue for the cost of medical monitoring is critical to securing justice for the victims of PFAS pollution.”
Currently, just nine states and the District of Columbia have laws specifically enabling people exposed to PFAS to recover the cost of medical monitoring.