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Reps. Pascrell, Collins Unveil Legislation to Establish a National Firefighter Cancer Registry

Bipartisan bill would allow researchers to study occupational connection between firefighters and risk of cancer

Today, U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and U.S. Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) announced the introduction of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act with 76 bipartisan original sponsors. The bill would create a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with this deadly disease. The creation of this registry would enable researchers to study the relationship between firefighters' exposure to dangerous fumes and harmful toxins and the increased risk for several major cancers. In the future, this information could also allow for better protective equipment and prevention techniques to be developed.

"Every day we asked the brave men and women in the fire service to stare down danger, enter smoked filled rooms and hazardous environments. That is why we need to do everything possible to protect their health, safety, and ensure they have proper access to care should they get sick," said Congressman Bill Pascrell. "Creating a national cancer registry for firefighters is the first step to helping public health researchers understand the trends associated with our firefighters developing this life threatening disease. This will allow us to lay the foundation for learning how we can mitigate this risk."

"Public servants like our firefighters put their lives on the line every day for us," said Congressman Chris Collins. "Unfortunately, firefighters see a higher rate of cancer than the rest of the public. This legislation will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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' that includes the many variables that occur over a firefighter’s career, the CDC will be able to better study this deadly trend. In the future, this information can be used to provide better safeguards and protocols for these brave men and women."

A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that in the United States 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 confirms that firefighters have an increased risk of cancer as a result of occupational exposure.

"I am grateful that Congressman Collins has taken up this important bill and I look forward to working with him to ensure it is passed in the 115th Congress. This legislation will utilize existing resources at the federal level to improve the coordination of vital research on cancer incidences among firefighters. As research advances, we will be able to protect our first responders better," said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY). "I am proud that this legislation was inspired by a constituent of mine, Brian McQueen. Mr. McQueen, a cancer survivor and local volunteer firefighter, has been a tireless advocate for our local firefighters and it is a true honor to be able to advocate for this legislation on his behalf."

In order to bolster the efforts led by researchers at NIOSH, the firefighter cancer registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer. Specifically, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would:

• Develop a firefighter registry of available cancer registry 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

• Improve our understanding of cancer incidences by requiring its administrators to consult regularly with public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters

The bill has strong support from several major fire organizations, including the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and the International Fire Services Training Association.

"On behalf of the nation’s 300,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical responders, I am writing in support of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017. This important legislation will establish a specialized cancer registry to provide scientists with more and better information regarding cancer in fire fighters and to spur novel research on this growing problem," International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger wrote in a letter of support. "The specialized information collected through the proposed registry will help strengthen our understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer, and hopefully spur new research which could potentially lead to better prevention and safety protocols among fire fighters."

Original sponsors include (76): Reps. Amodei, Barletta, Barr, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bost, Brooks, Brownley, Bustos, Comstock, Connolly, DeFazio, DeGette, Donovan, Ellison, Engel, Esty, Faso, Foster, Garamendi, Gottheimer, Grijalva, Heck, Joyce, Kaptur, Katko, Kilmer, Kind, Peter King, Knight, Kuster, Lance, Levin, Lipinski, LoBiondo, Loebsack, Carolyn Maloney, Patrick Maloney, McCollum, McGovern, Meehan, Moulton, Nadler, Nolan, Norcross, Norton, Payne, Jr., Perlmutter, Peterson, Pingree, Poliquin, Quigley, Renacci, Rice, Hal Rogers, Tim Ryan, Serrano, Shea-Porter, Shuster, Sinema, Sires, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Chris Smith, Swalwell, Tenney, Tonko, Tsongas, Valadao, Walorski, Walz, Wasserman Schultz, Watson Coleman, Yarmuth, Young, and Zeldin.

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