Federal aviation regulators are being urged by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and dozens of members of Congress to ensure chemicals linked to cancer and found in drinking water have been taken out of use at the nation's airports. 

The letter from Gillibrand sent this week to the Federal Aviation Administration urged the agency to take action and ensure civilian airports are using a firefighting foam that is free of the chemicals perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, commonly referred to as PFAS. 

At issue is a provision that took effect on Oct. 4 that barred civilian airports from using PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam. But because the FAA has not authorized the use of alternative foams or provided information on the requirements to fluorine-free foams, airports haven't been able to make the switch. 

“Contamination from PFAS runoff affects communities nationwide and is nothing short of a public health emergency,” Gillibrand said. “It is critical that the FAA works swiftly to actually enable our airports to use PFAS-free foams. Immediate action is needed to protect both firefighters and those who live near airports.”

PFAS has been discovered in groundwater across the country, including in communities in upstate New York. Federal and state officials in recent years have sought to ban the use of the chemicals on the local level. 

All told, 50 lawmakers signed onto Gillibrand's letter urging regulatory action.