Washington, D.C. – The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, a bipartisan bill championed by U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King to establish a specialized national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease, has been signed into law.
The legislation calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to 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.
“Cancer is the leading cause of death for our firefighters who risk their lives to help ensure the safety of our communities,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “When these brave men and women answer the call to protect families in Maine and across our country, they often encounter toxic fumes which make them susceptible to certain types of cancer and other health complications. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act will improve the data and information we have about these health risks so we can best provide our first responders with the necessary resources and equipment to protect their health.”
Firefighters are at an increased risk of contracting several major cancers; however, due to the limited availability of data, there are large gaps in the information currently available about the incidence of cancer in firefighters. This registry, which would be available to researchers, stakeholders, and others, would help advance the research into cancer risks for our nation’s first responders.
Specifically, this registry will:
- 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 understanding of cancer incidence, potentially leading to the development of more sophisticated safety protocols and safeguards as more data is collected.
- Require administrators to consult regularly with epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters to ensure the effectiveness of the registry.
- Authorize $2.5 million a year for five years to help the CDC administer the database.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act has strong support from several major fire organizations, including 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, and the International Fire Services Training Association.
“I would like to thank Congress and the President for creating the Firefighter Cancer Registry,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “Too many firefighters are contracting and dying from cancer caused by duty-related exposures. This registry will improve our understanding why firefighter cancer is occurring at such a high rate and make it easier to prevent, detect, and treat.”
“On behalf of all firefighters not only in Maine but nationwide we thank both Senators Collins and King for their hard work to help us move forward with this important issue,” said Jeffrey Cammack, Executive Director, Maine Fire Chiefs’ Association. “Even with all of the safety equipment and all of the precautions we take we know that firefighters are contracting certain cancers at a higher rate than the general public. We know the job we do is dangerous but anything that can be done to help those of us that become ill is a step in the right direction.”
“I’d like to thank our Maine congressional delegation for supporting the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act,” said Ken Desmond, President of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters. “We are seeing more firefighters getting cancer and at younger ages due to job-related exposures. This registry will give us data to help us to better understand why it is happening so that appropriate measures can be taken to prevent cancer in the future and treat it in the present.”
In addition to Senators Collins and King, this bill was cosponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).