Bill to create firefighter cancer registry becomes law

Photo: slobo/iStockphoto

Washington — President Donald Trump on July 7 signed into law bipartisan legislation to establish and maintain a voluntary registry intended to improve research into firefighters’ risk of cancer.

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (HR 931) directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect data on cancer incidence among firefighters and launch long-term research into the connection between their work and the disease.

Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) co-authored the legislation, which was introduced in the House in February 2017 and moved to the president’s desk for signing in June. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

“The brave men and women who selflessly keep our communities safe while fighting fires deserve for us to do everything in our power to also keep them out of harm’s way while they are on duty,” Collins said in a July 9 press release. “We currently have a lack of information about how being exposed to certain fires will impact a firefighter’s health, and this is a commonsense way to collect that data to improve protocols and equipment. I express my deepest gratitude for our nation’s firefighters and first responders, and take pride in knowing that this registry could lead to reforms that will save lives.”

NIOSH research shows that nearly 30,000 firefighters who were involved in a study between 2010 and 2015 had higher rates of certain cancers – digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary – than the general population. In addition, firefighters had nearly twice as many cases of malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer triggered by asbestos exposure.

Researchers also found that the number of firefighters younger than 65 who had bladder or prostate cancer was more than expected.

Officials from various firefighting organizations praised the passage of the bill into law.

“Modern medicine does not fully understand why firefighters experience cancer at rates much higher than the general public,” Chief Thomas Jenkins, International Association of Fire Chiefs president and chairman of the board, said in a June 22 press release. “The IAFC thanks our leaders in Congress for passing this important legislation to create a national firefighter cancer registry. The registry will help with critical research so we can better understand the causes and outcomes of cancer in the fire service and help us identify ways to mitigate and prevent it.”

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