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New Legislation Would, For The First Time Ever, Create A National Registry That Will Help Medical Professionals More Effectively Track And Treat Firefighters With Cancer; Firefighters Are Exposed To A Range Of Harmful Toxins And May Be At Increased Cancer Risk

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

Schumer: Firefighters Protect Us, So We Need To Protect Them

Surrounded by dozens of local firefighters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today 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). During a visit to the Troy Central Fire Station, Schumer explained that the registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer. Schumer said firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins and research has indicated that there may be connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers such as testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers. 

Schumer also announced three major grants that will help Troy firefighters protect and serve the Capital Region.

“Our brave firefighters in Troy and across New York 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 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 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.

In addition to pushing for this registry, during his visit Schumer announced three major grants that will help Troy firefighters protect and serve the Capital Region. In November 2015, Schumer visited the Troy Central Fire Station and launched his push to increase grant programs for firefighters, which help localities across Rensselaer County, the Capital Region and all of Upstate New York purchase new equipment, protective gear and emergency vehicles, as well as hire new firefighters. Schumer revealed that 22 percent of departments that applied for AFG, and just 19 percent that applied for SAFER were successful in 2014.  Now, just nine months later, Schumer has delivered nearly $1.8 million in federal funds through three separate grant programs for Troy firefighters.

Specifically, in May 2016, Schumer announced the first grant of $523,491 in federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program funds. These federal dollars supported the purchase of new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) air packs for firefighters and also allowed the Troy Fire Department to provide training to firefighters looking to become paramedics. In June 2016, the City of Troy Fire Department also received $298,743 in federal funds through the Port Security Grant Program. This funding will allow the department to purchase a new fireboat. Finally, just last week, Troy received $972,377 through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which will allow them to hire seven new firefighters. Altogether, Schumer has helped secure $1,794,611 in federal funds for the Troy Fire Department.

Schumer continued, “Our first responders are local heroes and primary line of defense in emergencies. They deserve to have the state-of-the-art equipment and adequate number of staff they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. That is why I have always fought against the continual short-changing of critical federal funding streams like the AFG and SAFER grant programs, which bring vital resources to our local fire departments in the Capital Region and across Upstate New York. I’m proud to be here today delivering these federal dollars to the Troy Fire Department, and I’ll continue fighting to bring more federal resources to our fire departments every year.”

Schumer was join by Troy Mayor Patrick Madden; Troy Fire Chief Thomas Garrett; Sam Fresina, President-Elect of the NYS Professional Firefighters Association; Kelly Paslow, Director of Rensselaer County Emergency Services; and Troy city council members.

“My colleagues and I have seen firefighters fall to illnesses – to various types of cancer – at a much higher rate than that of the general public,” said Sam Fresina, president-elect of the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association. “We have an obligation to protect the people who protect the public each day. This national registry goes a long way in understanding the alarming health issues and providing that protection.”

“The nearly $1.8M in federal grant funding for the Troy Fire Department, secured through the efforts and advocacy of Senator Schumer, not only strengthens and improves the department’s firefighting capacity and rapid response capabilities, it also gives the department the flexibility it needs to continue providing important emergency services to our residents when they need them the most. Funding made available through the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER), and Port Security (PSGP) grant programs will provide our first responders the training, equipment, and support they need to protect our families and communities. We are very fortunate to have the support of Senators Schumer, Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko and I want to thank them for their commitment to building a stronger, safer community here in the Collar City,” said Troy Mayor Patrick Madden.