Legislation Worker health and wellness Cancer Fire/emergency medical services

Senate health committee approves bill to establish cancer registry for firefighters

Photo: slobo/iStockphoto

Washington — Bipartisan legislation to establish and maintain a voluntary registry intended to improve research into firefighters’ risks of cancer was passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on April 24.

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (HR 931), co-authored by Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect data on cancer incidence among firefighters, and to initiate long-term research into the links between their work and the diseases. The data collected would be used with existing state data.

“We are now a step closer to better understanding firefighters’ risks for developing cancer,” Pascrell said. “Our legislation will ensure firefighters who enter smoke-filled rooms and hazardous environments in service to their communities get the support they need. While the House has already passed legislation, which would create this registry, I look forward to the Senate legislation moving through its chamber so we can get a bill on the president’s desk this year.”

The House unanimously approved the bill in September.

A NIOSH study of nearly 30,000 firefighters found that, between 2010 and 2015, firefighters had higher rates of certain cancers – digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary – than the general population. Firefighters also had about twice as many cases of malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

In addition, researchers said the number of firefighters younger than 65 who had bladder or prostate cancer was more than expected.

If it becomes law, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act might allow researchers to discover specific causes for various cancers and then produce targeted prevention and treatment.

“Every firefighter knows that cancer is a scourge on our industry,” Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said in a statement. “Today, cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty death among firefighters. By establishing a federal registry to study this growing problem, we will be able to take concrete steps to better treat and prevent cancer among firefighters.”

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