New Bill May Create National Firefighters' Cancer Registry
June 29—The U.S House of Representatives has joined the U.S. Senate in passing legislation that would, for the first time ever, establish a specialized national firefighters' cancer registry to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Thursday.
"Every day firefighters risk everything to protect communities and families across New York. We owe it to these fearless men and women to ensure that if they get sick, they will be cared for in the same way that they care for us," said Schumer, a New York Democrat. "This legislation will help firefighters across the country by establishing the national firefighter cancer registry— allowing researchers to track, treat, and I hope to prevent cancer. I pushed hard this year to get this bill across the finish line, and I'm proud the Senate and House voted unanimously to pass this critical legislation. I urge President Trump to sign it immediately, so we can get to work protecting those who keep us safe."
According to a five-year study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, there are twice as many firefighters in the U.S. with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, when compared to the general population. The same study also found that firefighters have an increased risk of death from lung cancer and leukemia as compared to the general population.
Schumer explained that firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins when responding to emergency situations, often as a result of the noxious flame retardants and other chemicals that are used in everyday items, from furniture to clothing, and even to children's toys. Experts and scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm on the danger of these toxic chemicals because they have been found to cause developmental delays in children from long-term exposure in addition to rare cancers in firefighters when these products burn and the toxins become airborne.
Schumer said research has indicated that there is a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers, including testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers. However, there has never been a long-term registry put in place that could be used to track the potential connections between firefighting and incidences of cancer.
Specifically, this national firefighter cancer registry would do the following:
- Compile epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters.
- Make anonymous data available to public health researchers.
- Improve understanding of cancer incidence as the registry grows, leading to the development of enhanced safety protocols.
Finally, this bill would allow for increased collaboration between the CDC and epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians and firefighters through regular and consistent consultations to improve the effectiveness and accuracy of the registry.