'Avengers' Actor Asks Congress to Oppose Defense Budget

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Actor Mark Ruffalo gestures during a promotional event for the movie "Avengers: Infinity War", outside the Walt Disney Grand Theater at the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo)
Actor Mark Ruffalo gestures during a promotional event for the movie "Avengers: Infinity War", outside the Walt Disney Grand Theater at the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP Photo)

Actor Mark Ruffalo is encouraging lawmakers to block the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 unless the defense budget keeps a toxic chemical out of drinking water.

Congress has been at an impasse on the NDAA this year due to President Donald Trump's border wall proposal, among other issues, but lawmakers said a bipartisan draft will likely be released later this week.

But it's unacceptable to pass a defense budget that does not protect Americans from man-made per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), said Ruffalo, who starred in the "Avengers" movies.

"Congress should not even be considering an NDAA that fails to reduce PFAS discharges into drinking water supplies, fails to keep PFAS out of our tap water, and lets companies like 3M and DuPont off the hook when it comes to cleaning up legacy PFAS pollution," he said Thursday on Facebook.

Congress is supposed to file a final compromise version of the 2020 NDAA this week, so it’s not yet clear what will be in the final bill. However, earlier House and Senate versions of the NDAA did contain provisions addressing PFAS pollution.

Related: List of Bases Contaminated with PFAS Chemicals Expected to Grow, Pentagon Says

PFAS are used in industries around the world. The Department of Defense found last year that 401 installations had some level of contamination from the chemical used in aqueous firefighting foam. Twenty-four of those bases had drinking water contamination levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency recommends.

PFAS chemicals can accumulate and stay in the human body for "long periods of time," the EPA said, and have been linked to low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.

"Making matters worse," Ruffalo continued his statement, which was also posted on Twitter, "the NDAA does not stop our support of the Saudi-led Yemen war, and for both of these issues, this budget falls wildly short of our values as Americans. Every member of Congress should reject this bad bill and send our legislators back to the drawing table."

Ruffalo is not alone in his concern about PFAS and its effects. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s first act when he came to the office in July was to create a Pentagon PFAS task force focused on cleanup of contamination and finding an acceptable PFAS-free fire-fighting chemical substitute.

-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at dorothy.mills-gregg@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.

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