Pascrell-Menendez Firefighter Cancer Registry Act Signed into Law
PATERSON, NJ – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Sen. Robert Menendez, co-authors of landmark legislation to protect firefighters from cancer risks, today celebrated the signing into law of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (H.R. 931). The bipartisan bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a national cancer registry for firefighters to monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and the incidence of cancer in firefighters so to develop better protective gear and prevention techniques.
“The brave men and women of the fire services who put their lives on the line for us each day deserve every ounce of support. Passing this bipartisan bill into law is Congress’s way of having their backs. The Firefighter Cancer Registry will bring together information on firefighters’ history to help doctors and researchers find any connections between firefighters’ work and increased risk for cancer,” said Rep. Pascrell, co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “This legislation has long enjoyed bipartisan support because all of us want to protect those who protect the rest of us. Thank you to Senator Menendez for his efforts getting this bill through the Congress and signed into law. Thank you also to Representatives Chris Collins and Frank Pallone and Senator Lisa Murkowski. I look forward to working closely with the CDC and members of the firefighting community to see that the new registry is implemented to its fullest use and we can start saving lives.”
“Today, after years of meeting with firefighters about the need to better understand the cancer risks they face, I am so proud and grateful that our bipartisan efforts finally paid off and the Fire Fighter Cancer Registry Act is now law,” said Sen. Menendez. “Just a week ago, Bill Pascrell and I joined dozens of these brave men and women who risk so much every time they answer the bell. Doing all we can to protect their health is the least we can do. And now, I’m ready to get back to work to make sure the CDC gets the cancer registry up and running as soon as possible.”
Rep. Pascrell and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) first announced introduction of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act in May 2016 during a news conference at a Clifton, N.J. Fire Station 5, where they were joined by dozens of firefighters, including retired Haddon Heights Fire Chief Gene Dannenfelster, who since lost his battle with cancer. H.R.931 was introduced in the 115th Congress on February 17, 2017. The bill passed the House of Representatives on September 12, 2017 by voice vote. H.R.931 was amended and passed the full Senate by unanimous consent on May 10, 2018. The amended H.R.931 passed the House of Representatives by unanimous consent on June 22, 2018.
A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths for certain types of cancer when compared to the general U.S. population, specifically digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers, and malignant mesothelioma. The study confirmed that firefighters have an increased risk of cancer because of occupational exposure. To bolster the efforts led by researchers at NIOSH, the firefighter cancer registry will improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – both career and volunteer.
Specifically, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act will authorize $2 million in federal funds to the CDC from FY2018 to FY2022. Additionally, the legislation will:
- Develop a firefighter registry of available cancer incidence data collected by existing State Cancer Registries and a strategy to maximize participation;
- Create a registry that will contain relevant history, such as other occupational information, years of service, number of fire incidents responded to, and additional risk factors;
- Make de-identified data available to public health researchers to provide them with robust and comprehensive datasets to expand groundbreaking research; and
- Improve our understanding of cancer incidences by requiring administrators to consult regularly with public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters.
The legislation has support from several major fire organizations, including the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association, and the International Fire Services Training Association.
“On behalf of all our brothers and sisters in the fire service, I want to thank Senator Menendez and Congressman Pascrell for standing strong with us from the very beginning in our fight for the fire fighter cancer registry,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “They know what we know, that cancer is a scourge of our industry and the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths. The cancer registry will give us the data we need to fight cancer head on and save fire fighter lives.”
“Just as the members of the NJ FMBA will never waver in answering an alarm, acting when the situation is most dire, Senator Menendez and Congressman Pascrell have never faltered in their support for us,” stated Wayne Wolk, Executive Vice President, New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association. “This is serious legislation that will ultimately allow our members to continue to serve our communities while protecting our health through research, prevention and proper equipment to minimize the causes of a cancer related incident. This is the kind of action we want to see coming out of Washington, D.C., and it’s no surprise that it is two powerful leaders from New Jersey making it happen.”
“I would like to thank Congress for passing this critical legislation, as well as Representative Collins for his leadership in introducing and championing it,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “Too many firefighters are contracting and dying from cancer caused by duty-related exposures. This registry will improve our understanding of why firefighter cancer is occurring at such a high rate, and will make it easier to prevent, detect, and treat.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Firefighter Steering Committee said: “The AFGE, AFL-CIO supports the Firefighter Cancer Registry bill because it will help improve the health and safety of our federal fire fighters and municipal and volunteer fire fighters who protect and serve the American public at the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. We look forward to collecting this important data in the federal registry and sharing it with our civilian counterparts.”