Defense Department officials are pushing back against health concerns raised by environmental groups and regulators over the use of PFAS in products such as uniforms, batteries, and microelectronics, KFF Health News has reported.
PFAS, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals that resist grease, oil, water, and heat, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Known as "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment and can build up in the human body, PFAS have been associated with such health problems as cancer.
Although regulators have proposed restrictions on PFAS' use or manufacturing, Pentagon officials have told Congress that eliminating the chemicals would undermine military readiness.
"DOD is reliant on the critically important chemical and physical properties of PFAS to provide required performance for the technologies and consumable items and articles which enable military readiness and sustainment," an August DOD report said, KFF Health News reported.
"Losing access to PFAS due to overly broad regulations or severe market contractions would greatly impact national security and DOD's ability to fulfill its mission."
The DOD report said most major weapons systems contain PFAS chemicals, KFF Health News reported. That includes helicopters, airplanes, submarines, missiles, torpedoes, tanks, and assault vehicles.
The report said PFAS are also found in textiles such as uniforms, footwear, tents, and duffel bags, as well as nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare protective gear.
A federal study in July showed a direct link between testicular cancer and PFOS, a PFAS chemical that has been found in the blood of thousands of military personnel.
Some types of PFAS have been linked to low birth weight, developmental delays in children, thyroid dysfunction, and reduced response to immunizations, KFF Health News reported.
The report did not address the health concerns and noted that there is "no consensus definition of PFAS as a chemical class." It added that the broad term, which addresses thousands of artificial chemical chains, "does not inform whether a compound is harmful or not."
Environmental Working Group (EWG) researchers said the report lacked acknowledgment of the health risks posed by PFAS and ignored the availability of PFAS-free replacements for material, tents, and duffel bags.
"It's kind of like that report you turn in at school," senior scientist David Andrews said, "when you get a comment back that you did the minimum amount possible."
EWG in August said more than 700 military installations likely were contaminated with PFAS.
"The Defense Department has failed to treat PFAS with the urgency service members and their families rightly deserve," EWG senior policy analyst Jared Hayes said. "For too long, people living in communities near military installations also have been the victims of the Pentagon’s failure to act."
Charlie McCarthy, a writer/editor at Newsmax, has nearly 40 years of experience covering news, sports, and politics.
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