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Members of Congress Push to Create National Registry for Firefighters Diagnosed with Cancer

Hanna, Pascrell, Menendez and Connolly lead charge to form registry that would be managed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies show strong link between firefighting and several major cancers. Read more.

(Congressman Connolly joins Senator Menendez, and Reps. Hannah, Pascrell, King and IAFF President Schaitberger to call for the creation of a National Firefighter Cancer Registry)

U.S. Representatives Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) andBill Pascrell (D-N.J.) introduced H.R. 4625, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, which would establish a specialized national cancer registry to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the companion bill, S.2799, along with co-sponsor Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).   

“Our firefighters put their lives on the line every day to help our communities during times of emergency,” Rep. Hanna said. “We need a broader understanding of the trends associated with why, how and when our firefighters are contracting this life threatening disease. Establishing a national cancer registry is the first step to building a database where health experts can study the factors associated with cancer diagnoses in the firefighting community. It is my hope that through this registry we can develop more sophisticated protocols and safeguards to prevent our men and women firefighters from being diagnosed with cancer.”  

“We ask the brave men and women in the fire service to stare down danger and risk their lives each day, which is why we must do all we can to have their backs,” Rep. Pascrell said. “I believe that establishing a national cancer registry can help public health researchers start to understand potential connections between firefighting and cancer, and lay the foundation for learning how we can mitigate this risk. We owe it to all of our firefighters to investigate this trend.”

“Firefighters risk their lives and health every time they answer the bell. And it’s not just smoke and flames they have to worry about, but dangerous fumes and toxins, in some cases known carcinogens, released during a fire that pose additional risks for the men and women who so bravely charge-in to ensure our safety,” said Sen. Menendez. “I introduced the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act because by studying, quantifying and understanding the risks of cancer for firefighters, it is my sincere hope that we can develop better ways of protecting them and preventing cancer.”

“Our brave firefighters in New York are on the frontlines, risking their lives to protect our communities,” Senator Schumer said. “And now with the ubiquitous presence of complex chemicals in our furniture, clothes and goods, they are too often exposed to a caustic brew of toxins when fighting fires. That is why it so important for Congress to pass this critical legislation to establish a national firefighter cancer registry, so researchers can better track the potential connections between firefighting and cancer.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), co-chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, said he supports this measure.

“We owe it to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to better understand and investigate fully how and why they are developing certain cancers more than the rest of the population,” Rep. King said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a cosponsor of H.R. 4625 and member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, also called for swift passage of the bill in both the House and Senate.

“I am proud to cosponsor this important legislation to strengthen our understanding of the link between cancer and firefighting,” Rep. Connolly said. “We need to better understand the correlation between the wide range of harmful toxins and conditions firefighters encounter on a regular basis and how to better mitigate those risks. This registry will create a first response for the brave men and women who serve as our first responders. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who rush to a house fire or medical emergency in our local communities, or answer to call for assistance after a natural disaster strikes at home or abroad, and this is one small step we can take to help keep them safe.”

The national cancer registry would:

  • Store and consolidate epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters.
  • Make anonymous data available to public health researchers to provide them with robust and comprehensive datasets to expand groundbreaking research.
  • Improve our understanding of cancer incidence as the registry grows, which could potentially lead to the development of advanced safety protocols and safeguards.
  • Increase 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.

Representatives from national firefighting associations also participated in the news conference today to call for the establishment of a national firefighter cancer registry:

Harold A. Schaitberger, General President, International Association of Fire Fighters said, “Cancer is the No. 1 health concern in the firefighting profession today, and scientific data clearly demonstrate the association between firefighting and cancer. The registry created through this legislation in the House and Senate will improve research on this link to better protect firefighters’ health.”

Mike Rund, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland. He is also a current active Lieutenant with Howard County Fire and Rescue Service in Howard County, Maryland. Lt.Rund was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 48. He completed treatment four years ago and is currently cancer free.

Brian McQueen, Board Member of the Firefighters Association of the State of New York, past Chief of the Whitesboro Volunteer Fire Department. McQueen, a cancer survivor, founded Believe 271 an organization that provides financial assistance to Volunteer Firefighters, EMT's and members of Ladies Auxiliary in Oneida and Herkimer County (upstate New York) who suffer from a life threatening illness, such as cancer. 

Joanne Rund, Assistant Fire Chief, Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, representing the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

The following groups support establishing a Firefighter Cancer Registry:

  • The National Volunteer Fire Council
  • The International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • The International Association of Fire Fighters
  • The New York State Association of Fire Chiefs
  • The Congressional Fire Services Institute
  • The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • The International Fire Services Training Association
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