Congress Considers Establishing a Fire Fighter Cancer Registry
In a rare display of bipartisanship, members from both sides of the aisle in Congress have joined ranks to press for the establishment of a national cancer registry specifically for fire fighters. Congressmen Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) have introduced H.R. 4625, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, to establish such a registry. Identical legislation, S. 2799, has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). It is hoped that the legislation will spur novel research on cancer in fire fighters by providing scientists with new data.
“Cancer is the leading line of duty death among fire fighters today,” said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “By strengthening our understanding of the link between fire fighting and cancer, this important legislation will help us develop new tools and techniques to protect fire fighters, and hopefully prevent future disease.”
Multiple studies have demonstrated statistically higher rates of multiple types of cancers in fire fighters as compared to the general population, including multiple myeloma, brain cancer, leukemia, prostate cancer, kidney and lung cancers and many others. One such study, by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in 2013, found that fire fighters have a 14% increased risk of dying from cancer as compared to the general population.
Despite the knowledge gained from previous studies, many have been limited by relatively small sample sizes and an under representation of certain demographic groups including women and minorities. Studies have also been limited by the lack of key data such as the number of years on the job and the number and type of exposures. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act remedies these shortcomings by collecting detailed data about fire fighters with cancer on a national scale.
This legislation is a key priority of the IAFF. The Registry Act was featured at the recent IAFF Legislative Conference, at which hundreds of fire fighters stormed the Hill gathering support from Members of Congress. Also at the Conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) expressed his support for the legislation, pledging to lead a movement of mayors across the nation. “You see, that act is the only way that scientists can better understand the link between your work and cancer,” Garcetti said. “I’m sick of stories and anecdotes. It’s time for the science to prove what we know.”
Today, General President Schaitberger and IAFF staff continue lobbying Congress in favor of the Registry Act. Currently, dozens of bipartisan cosponsors have signed onto the bill, and support for the legislation grows every day. The IAFF will continue working with its friends in Congress to make a national fire fighter cancer registry a reality.