Defense officials say pandemic delayed research for PFAS alternative

September 18, 2020

The head of the Department of Defense’s environmental research program said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a delay in finding a replacement for military firefighting foam that contains “forever chemicals” linked to cancer and other adverse health conditions.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, signed into law by President Donald Trump, required the DoD to phase out PFAS chemicals in aqueous film forming foam by Oct. 1, 2024 and to stop military training exercises with AFFF immediately.

Herb Nelson, director of the DoD’s Strategic Environment Research and Development Program, told the House Armed Services Committee that some laboratories tasked with finding a replacement are now six months behind schedule in their research.

“We’re just getting started. Normally, on this day, I could give you some early indicators, but like everyone else on this Earth, they’ve really taken a delay because of the COVID situation,” Nelson testified. “Many of the people are out of their laboratories, so maybe they’re six months further behind than we would expect them to be.”

Nelson told the committee that his scientists were testing the environmental impacts of potential PFAS substitutes at the same time as their firefighting efficacy was being tested.

In October, the DoD will begin testing the blood of firefighters that use PFAS foam.

Defense officials say pandemic delayed research for PFAS alternative