Collins pushes legislation to create cancer registry for firefighters

Posted 11 February 2017 at 5:38 pm

File photo by Tom Rivers: Firefighters were called to a house fire in Eagle Harbor after midnight on April 20, 2014, which was also Easter morning.

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

BATAVIA – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement today after discussing his sponsored legislation, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, with members of the Scranton Volunteer and Town of Batavia Fire Companies.

Congressman Collins and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) recently introduced this bipartisan legislation that would authorize $2,500,000 in federal funds from FY2018 through FY2022 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC would utilize these funds to create a national cancer registry to collect data on cancer incidence among firefighters.

“Public servants like our firefighters and first responders put their lives on the line every day for us,” said Congressman Chris Collins. “Unfortunately, studies show that firefighters see a higher rate of cancer than the rest of the general public. This vital legislation will provide the CDC with the tools they need to improve their data collection capabilities on volunteer, paid-on-call, and career firefighters. We hope that by creating a voluntary ‘Firefighter Registry’ the CDC will be able to better study this disturbing trend and prevent deadly health consequences for our first responders.”

This legislation would allow the CDC to establish and improve collection infrastructure and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer among firefighters. These improved data records would include the status of the firefighter (volunteer, paid-on-call, or career), number of years on the job, the number of fire incidents attended, the type of fire incidence, and a number of other risk factors.

A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determined that firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths when compared to the general U.S. population. The study confirms that firefighters are more at risk of contracting digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers, and malignant mesothelioma.

To ensure maximum participation in this voluntary registry, Congress will instruct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to cultivate an outreach and awareness strategy within 30 days of development. HHS would then make all data available without a fee for research and other purposes, in compliance with privacy security standards in HIPPA regulations. The culmination of this data will be used to develop better protective equipment and prevention techniques for our firefighters.

In 2013, Brian McQueen, former chief of the Whitesboro Fire Department and Deputy Fire Coordinator 271 for Oneida County, was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After his doctors linked this diagnosis to his service as a firefighter, former Congressman Richard Hanna (NY-24) and Congressman Pascrell introduced the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act to implement a nationwide study of this deadly trend. Brian McQueen has since developed an educational program in New York to alert other firefighters of potential health risks associated with their profession.

After speaking with the Town of Batavia Fire Department today, Congressman Collins joined New York State Senator Chris Jacobs (SD-60) at the Scranton Volunteer Fire Company in Hamburg to highlight Senator Jacob’s support of legislation at the state level that will expand the Volunteer Firefighter’s Benefits Law. This NYS legislation will expand coverage to volunteer firefighters with at least five years of service who developed lymphoma or leukemia after their service, and coverage for volunteer firefighters with at least 10 years of service who develop stomach, skin, breast, prostate and other reproductive cancers after their service.

“Volunteer firefighters provide life-saving services with great exposure to harmful substances and great risk to their own long-term health,” said New York State Senator Chris Jacobs. “At the same time we are collecting data at the federal level that will be used to develop better safeguards and protocols, we can also ensure that we provide them opportunities for, and access to, the very best in healthcare services for illnesses related to their service. That’s exactly what our legislation expanding the Firefighters’ Benefits law will do.”

“Cancer is an epidemic in the fire service,” said Ken Pienkowski, President of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York. “The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, along with our partners in the New York State and Assembly, are pushing for presumptive cancer coverage for the State’s approximately 110,000 volunteer firefighters. We are grateful to Congressman Collins for sponsoring this important legislation. The more information we gather about cancer in the fire service, the clearer it becomes how necessary it is to have presumptive coverage for all of our firefighters, paid and volunteer alike. ”

Major fire organizations from throughout the United States have authored letters in support of this legislation, including: the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Firefighters, the International Fire Service Training Association, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

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