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New Legislation Would, For The First Time Ever, Create A National CDC Registry That Will Help Medical Professionals More Effectively Track And Treat Firefighters With Cancer; Firefighters Are Exposed To A Range Of Harmful Toxins & Are Often At Increased Cancer Risk—As 9/11 Showed Us 

Senator Says Legislation Could Help Save The Lives Of Our Brave Firefighters Who Put Their Life On The Line Everyday 

Schumer: Firefighter Cancer Registry Would Smoke Out Cancers That Inflict Some Of Our Bravest  

During a visit to the historic Garden City Fire Department Headquarters and surrounded by dozens of local firefighters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced new legislation that would, for the first time ever, establish a specialized, voluntary national cancer registry to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Our brave firefighters on Long Island and across New York State are on the frontlines, risking their lives to protect our communities,” said Senator Schumer. “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 voluntary firefighter cancer registry, so researchers can better track, treat – and one day prevent – the potential connections between firefighting and cancer.”

Schumer explained how the registry would work and how it would improve the collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer occurrences among all firefighters. Schumer said it is high time for a national registry that aims to treat, track and prevent firefighter cancers. Schumer also detailed the range of harmful toxins firefighters are exposed to; their higher cancer rates and what we learned from 9/11 as he makes this legislative push.

Schumer was joined by T.J. Michon, President of the Garden City Fire Department and President of IAFF L1588 as well as dozens of Long Island firefighters, the IAFF and the UFA.

According to a five year study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, there are twice as many firefighters in the U.S. with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, when compared to the general population. The same study also found that firefighters also have an increased risk of death from lung cancer and leukemia as compared to the general population. 

Schumer explained that firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins when responding to emergency situations, often as a result of the noxious flame retardants and other chemicals that are used in everyday items, from furniture, to clothing, and to even children’s toys. Experts and scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm on the danger of these toxic chemicals because they have been found to cause developmental delays in children from long-term exposure in addition to rare cancers in firefighters when these products burn and the toxins become airborne.

Schumer said research has indicated that there is a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers, including testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers. However, there has never been a long-term registry put in place that could be used to track the potential connections between firefighting and incidences of cancer. Schumer therefore said a national firefighter cancer registry is needed, so experts and researchers can more effectively monitor nationwide trends and incidences of cancer among firefighters – both career and volunteer. Schumer said such a registry would help medical professionals more effectively identify and treat cancer in firefighters over the long term.

Therefore, Schumer is pushing legislation, also led by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, that would create this registry, which would help better protect the firefighters who safeguard citizens’ lives day in and day out. Schumer is co-sponsoring the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, S.2799, in the Senate alongside Senator Bob Menendez [D-NJ]. This bipartisan legislation was introduced by Congressman Richard Hanna in the House of Representatives. Schumer explained that this national firefighter cancer registry would be managed by the CDC and would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters.

Specifically this national firefighter cancer registry would do the following:

First, this registry would compile in one place the epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters.

Second, it would make anonymous data available to public health researchers so that they would have access to the comprehensive datasets that will allow them to expand this groundbreaking research.

Third, this registry would improve our understanding of cancer incidence as the registry grows, which could potentially lead to the development of advanced safety protocols and safeguards for the firefighters on the front lines each day.

Finally, this bill would allow for increased 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.