Pascrell, Menendez, NJ Firefighters Celebrate Passage of Firefighter Cancer Registry Act
ENGLEWOOD, NJ – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), authors of landmark legislation to protect firefighters from cancer risks, today joined dozens of firefighters from across New Jersey to celebrate final passage of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (H.R. 931). The bill creates a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease. It calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins, and the incidence of cancer in firefighters. A long-term study will better determine if there is a link between the two, and from that help develop better protective gear and prevention techniques for firefighters.
“Today is a big day. I can’t think of many priorities more important than protecting the health of America’s firefighters. 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 will strengthen the safety of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every single day. This legislation has long enjoyed bipartisan support because having the backs of those protecting our families is a cause we all support. I want to thank Representatives Chris Collins and Frank Pallone, and Senators Menendez and Lisa Murkowski for all their efforts to get this bill through Congress. After the legislation is signed, I look forward to working with the CDC and members of the firefighting community to see that the new registry is implemented to its fullest use.”
“This is a huge win for our firefighters, who risk so much every time they answer the bell. Taking care of those who risk their lives and health to protect us is the least we can do,” said Sen. Menendez. “Firefighters not only encounter smoke and flames when they run into burning buildings, but also dangerous fumes, toxins, and known carcinogens released during a fire that pose additional health risks. The ultimate goal of the Firefighter Cancer Registry is to prevent cancer in firefighters by developing better ways of protecting them through study and greater understanding of their cancer risks.”
Among those joining the federal lawmakers at Englewood Fire Dept. headquarters for today’s announcement were Bergen County Executive James Tedesco, a longtime Paramus volunteer firefighter, Englewood Fire Chief Erik Enersen, James Slevin of the International Assoc. of Firefighters (IAFF), Dominick Marino of the Professional Firefighters Assoc. of N.J., Wayne Wolk of the N.J. State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Assoc., and George Heflich of the National Volunteer Fire Council.
Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pascrell 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 House of Representatives by unanimous consent on June 22, 2018. The bill awaits the President’s signature.
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, NJ FMBA. “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.”