Schumer seeks national firefighter cancer registry

Published May 15, 2018 at 4:00pm

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is touting legislation that would, for the first time ever, establish a specialized national cancer registry for firefighters to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Schumer said the registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters, both career, and volunteer.

The legislation has passed in the Senate, and Schumer is urging the House of Representatives to pass the bill immediately.

“We owe it to our brave firefighters who are on the front lines, risking their lives to protect our communities the peace of mind of knowing that if they get sick they will be taken care of,” Schumer said. “This critical legislation does just that by establishing a national firefighter cancer registry, so researchers can better track, treat – and one day – prevent the potential connections between firefighting and cancer.”  

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

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 added.

The senator added that 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 said a national firefighter cancer registry will also help medical professionals more effectively identify and treat cancer in firefighters over the long term.