WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today applauded unanimous Senate passage of The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. which would create a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease. The bill 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 to determine if there is a link, and to develop better protective gear and prevention techniques. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also cosponsored the bill.
“Firefighters always answer the call and put their lives on the line to protect us from dangerous situations. The nature of their work makes them susceptible to multiple health complications, including cancer,” said Sen. Rubio. “I am proud to support this bill that aims to protect these brave first responders from cancer, and I encourage the President to quickly sign it into law.”
“I am so pleased that the full Senate has stood up for the health and well-being of our first responders and passed this important legislation. This is a huge win for our firefighters, who risk so much every time they answer the bell to protect us,” 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 is to prevent cancer in firefighters by developing better ways of protecting them through study and understanding of their cancer risks.”
“Firefighters across Alaska sacrifice their safety each day for communities across our state. They should not have to sacrifice their health, too. Unfortunately, these brave men and women are regularly exposed to harmful toxins on the job, making them susceptible to several types of major cancers,” said Sen. Murkowski. “I’m encouraged by the quick passage of this bipartisan legislation—a data-driven approach to help us protect our nation’s heroes from this deadly disease.”
“With cancer becoming the leading cause of death for firefighters, we need to learn more about the cancer risks our firefighters face so we can support them if they get sick,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “Right now, we don’t know enough to protect the people protecting us. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017 will start giving us the information we need to ensure the health and safety of those who put their lives in danger to keep us safe.”
The bill, reintroduced in February 2017, has 48 Senate cosponsors: Murkowski, Klobuchar, Rubio, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).
Firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins, and research has indicated that there is a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers such as testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers.
The registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer. Specifically, the registry would:
- Store and consolidate epidemiological information submitted by health care professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters
- 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 incidence and could potentially lead to the development of more sophisticated safety protocols and safeguards as more data is collected
- To ensure the effectiveness of the registry, its administrators would be required to consult regularly with epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters.