5/10/2018 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to better protect the health and safety of firefighters, the U.S. Senate passed legislation backed by U.S. Senator Jack Reed establishing a national registry to collect occupational information and data to better understand cancer incidence among firefighters.  The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would require the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a registry to collect data regarding the incidence of cancer in firefighters.

In the course of fighting fires, many firefighters may be exposed to a range of harmful toxins.  Research indicates there is a connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers.  A recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that firefighters in the U.S. have a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths.

“Our firefighters put it all on the line to protect our communities and we must do everything we can to support and protect them.  This legislation will help researchers study and better understand connections between firefighting and cancer,” said Reed, a cosponsor of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  “Passing this bill is a critical step toward developing better gear, guidelines, and preventive techniques to protect our firefighters and reduce occupational cancer-related deaths.”

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act will help monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and the incidence of cancer in firefighters to determine if there is a link, and to develop better protective gear and prevention techniques.

The registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer.  Specifically, the registry would:

  • Store and consolidate epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters
  • Make de-identified data available to public health researchers to provide them with robust and comprehensive datasets to expand groundbreaking research
  • Improve our understanding of cancer incidence and could potentially lead to the development of more sophisticated safety protocols and safeguards as more data is collected.
  • To ensure the effectiveness of the registry, its administrators would be required to consult regularly with epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters.

Companion legislation (H.R. 931) authored by Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The House must now take up and pass the Senate version of the bill so it can be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.