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$1 million in federal budget for national firefighter cancer registry

Posted 22 August 2018 at 1:02 pm

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

Photo by Tom Rivers: Albion firefighters battle a garage fire on Jan. 2, 2016 on South Clinton Street.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced that as an amendment to the upcoming FY2019 Health and Human Services (HHS) minibus appropriations bill, the U.S. Senate passed $1 million in FY2019 funding for the national firefighter cancer registry.

Schumer explained that in June of this year, Congress passed legislation that would establish a specialized national firefighters’ cancer registry to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Schumer has long fought for this critical registry that would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters, both career and volunteer. Schumer called the Senate passing funding for this registry a big step in the right direction, and vowed to see the funding through Congress and signed into law.

“Firefighters risk their lives every day, exposing themselves to harmful toxins and pollutants, and charging into extreme danger,” Schumer said. “We owe it to these courageous men and women to ensure that if they fall ill, they receive first-rate medical care and treatment.”

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 have an increased risk of death from lung cancer and leukemia as compared to the general population.

“That’s why I was so proud to lead the effort to pass this bill and support this funding for the first-ever national firefighter cancer registry,” Schumer said. “The Senate took a big step in getting this vital program up and running. This registry, which I’ve long supported, will help researchers track, treat, and eventually prevent firefighters being stricken by cancer. I’ll always work tirelessly on behalf of our first responders, and vow to see this funding through Congress and signed into law.”

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 this national firefighter cancer registry is of the utmost importance, so experts and researchers can more effectively monitor nationwide trends and incidences of cancer among firefighter – 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.

Specifically, this national firefighter cancer registry will do the following:

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

• Second, it will 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 will 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 legislation will 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.

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