SCHUMER STANDS WITH SYRACUSE FIREFIGHTERS AT STATION 5 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 SYRACUSE FIREFIGHTERS WOULD BENEFIT
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: Our Syracuse Firefighters Protect Us, So We Need To Protect Them
Surrounded by dozens of local Syracuse firefighters and representatives from the Firefighter Cancer Foundation of New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a major effort to pass legislation that would, for the 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 Central New York and across the country 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.
“Our brave firefighters in Syracuse and across Central 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.
Schumer was joined by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Syracuse Fire Chief Paul Linnertz and dozens of local firefighters.
Also in attendance was Mike Valenti, President of the Firefighter Cancer Foundation of New York and Northeast regional director of the International Firefighter Cancer Foundation, as well as a current Syracuse firefighter. Valenti started the local chapters of the organization in February 2014 following the death of fellow firefighter Garry Grethel. Grethel, 52, died of pancreatic cancer that month. He retired from the Syracuse Fire Department in 2008 after 21 years with the department. Since then, at least two other Syracuse firefighters have died of cancer. Alex Cimino Sr., 54, died of prostate cancer in December after 20 years with the department. Thomas Erwin, 51, died of brain and lung cancer in January. He joined the fire department in 1988.
Schumer and Valenti said the Firefighter Cancer Foundation of New York is dedicated to bringing awareness to firefighters’ enhanced risk of cancer and helping any New York firefighter, and their family, that is battling cancer. The organization has partnered the Syracuse Fire Department with both Upstate University and Crouse hospitals to provide cancer screenings and testing to firefighters, as well as boost awareness of the increased cancer risks firefighters face. They can be reached at 1-866-411-3323, and their website is www.ffcancerny.org.
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