02.22.17

SCHUMER STANDS WITH BUFFALO FIREFIGHTERS AT ENGINE 36/LADDER 13 QUARTERS TO LAUNCH A MAJOR PUSH TO CREATE FIRST-EVER NATIONAL FIREFIGHTER CANCER REGISTRY; FIREFIGHTERS’ CANCER RISK CAN BE DOUBLE THAT OF OTHERS DUE TO EXPOSURE TO TOXIC CHEMICALS—BUT NO REGISTRY TO TRACK & PREVENT CANCER IN FIREFIGHTERS HAS EVER EXISTED; THOUSANDS OF WNY AND UPSTATE FIREFIGHTERS WOULD BENEFIT

Vital 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 Will Say Legislation Could Help Save The Lives Of Our Brave Firefighters Who Put Their Life On The Line Everyday

Schumer Will Spark National Push To Protect NY’s Firefighters By Passing Cancer Registry

Surrounded by dozens of Buffalo area firefighters, and their family members, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today vowed to push to pass critical legislation that would, for the first time ever, establish a specialized national cancer registry to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 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 in Buffalo and across Western New York and the country are exposed to a range of harmful toxins. Research has indicated that there may be a connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers such as testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma, and brain cancers. 

“Our brave firefighters in Buffalo and across Western 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. Firefighters are also exposed to large amounts of chemicals when fighting industrial fires like the one that happened at the Bethlehem Steel plant a few months ago – and in residential fires, too, due to the extensive presence of potentially harmful chemicals in furniture, clothes, toys and more. When these materials burn and the chemicals are released and interact they can create a real witches brew of toxins that put our firefighters at real exposure risk. That is why it so important for Congress to pass this critical legislation to establish a national 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 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. Schumer also noted the timely importance of this bill following the recent massive fire at the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna, NY. 

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 originally 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 groundbreaking research. 

Third, the registry would improve our understanding of cancer incidence, 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.

Schumer was joined by Byron Brown, Mayor of the City of Buffalo and Deputy Commissioner Vincent Gugliuzza, Buffalo Fire Department, and Vincent Ventresca, President of the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association. 

"The health registry Senator Schumer is proposing would create a data base that would not only track medical conditions of current and former firefighters, but would also help prevent future exposures. These brave men and women put their lives on the line protecting our city every day and shared knowledge on firefighter health outcomes will benefit all of them," said Byron W. Brown, Mayor of the City of Buffalo. 

"We do everything we can to protect our crews from exposure to toxic fumes and substances, but the more we know, the better job we can do in every firehouse, across the country, to prevent health problems in the future.  A national registry would give us better insight into toxins that can lead to cancer and other medical issues," said Garnell Whitfield, Buffalo Fire Commissioner. 

“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 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.”

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