U.S. Representatives Chris Collins (R-NY-27) and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-09), the co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, celebrated the passage of H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.
The legislation they sponsored together would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a registry to collect data regarding the incidence of certain cancers in firefighters. The registry will improve collection capabilities and activities to address an enormous gap in research on the health impacts of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer.
Firefighters may experience detrimental health effects due to smoke inhalation and other harmful, toxic substances. The legislation takes a first step toward gathering this information to develop new protocols, safeguards, and equipment to protect these men and women. Senate legislation is sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
“I am extremely humbled and proud of the work we have done to get this bill on President Trump’s desk,” Collins said. “We have to prioritize the health and safety of the brave men and women who selflessly protect our communities.
"It has been an honor to work with Congressman Pascrell, and we have seen an outpouring of support for this legislation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, various firefighter organizations, health care groups, our colleagues in Congress, and of course the firefighters in our districts and across America that this is intended to serve.
"I look forward to President Trump signing this bill into law and to see all of the positive impacts this will have on the firefighting community.”
“Today is a big day. I can’t think of many priorities more important than protecting the health of America’s firefighters. The Firefighter Cancer Registry will bring together information on firefighters’ history to help doctors and researchers find any connections between firefighters’ work and increased risk for cancer,” Rep. Pascrell said.
"This will strengthen the safety of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every single day. This legislation has long enjoyed bipartisan support because having the backs of those protecting our families is a cause we all support.
"I want to thank Representatives Chris Collins and Frank Pallone, and Senators Robert Menendez and Lisa Murkowski for all their efforts to get this bill through Congress. After the legislation is signed, I look forward to working with the CDC and members of the firefighting community to see that the new registry is implemented to its fullest use.”
“Our firefighters are brave men and women, who put themselves in harm’s way day after day. This registry has the potential to improve the quality of life for these real-life heroes,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR-02) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX-26). “From a house fire to the wildfires that ravage the west, these men and women don’t think twice before heading into dangerous situations of fire and smoke to protect others. This national registry is one way we can help protect them.”
A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths for certain types of cancer when compared to the general U.S. population, specifically digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers, and malignant mesothelioma.
The study confirmed that firefighters have an increased risk of cancer because of occupational exposure. To bolster the efforts led by researchers at NIOSH, the firefighter cancer registry will improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer.
Specifically, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act will authorize $2 million in federal funds to the CDC from FY2018 to FY2022. Additionally, the legislation will:
- Develop a firefighter registry of available cancer incidence data collected by existing State Cancer Registries and a strategy to maximize participation;
- Create a registry that will contain relevant histories, such as other occupational information, years of service, number of fire incidents responded to, and additional risk factors;
- Make de-identified data available to public health researchers to provide them with robust and comprehensive datasets to expand groundbreaking research; and
- Improve our understanding of cancer incidences by requiring administrators to consult regularly with public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters.
The legislation has 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 Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association and the International Fire Services Training Association.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Fire Fighter Steering Committee said “The AFGE, AFL-CIO supports the Fire Fighter Cancer Registry bill because it will help improve the health and safety of our federal firefighters and municipal and volunteer firefighters who protect and serve the American public at the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We look forward to collecting this important data in the federal registry and sharing it with our civilian counterparts.”
“I would like to thank Congress for passing this critical legislation, as well as Representative Collins for his leadership in introducing and championing it,” 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 of why firefighter cancer is occurring at such a high rate, and will make it easier to prevent, detect, and treat.”
“Firefighters are routinely exposed to numerous carcinogens over the course of their careers and deserve the best protection and prevention tools available," said International Association of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO General President Harold Schaitberger.
"The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act will provide yet another means to study the deadly relationship between cancer and firefighting. I thank Representative Collins for his leadership on this important issue and applaud the Congress for sending the bill to the President to be signed into law.”