Menendez, Pascrell Unveil Legislation to Research Cancer among Firefighters

Menendez, Pascrell Unveil Legislation to Research Cancer among Firefighters

Bipartisan bill would study link to dangerous fumes and toxins

CLIFTON, NJ – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) today were joined by firefighters from across New Jersey, including a cancer survivor, to announce the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  The bill would 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.

 “Firefighters risk their lives and health every time they answer the bell.  And it’s not just smoke and flames they have to worry about, but dangerous fumes and toxins, in some cases known carcinogens, released during a fire that pose additional risks for the men and women who so bravely charge-in to ensure our safety,” said Sen. Menendez.  “By studying, quantifying and understanding the risks of cancer for firefighters, it is my sincere hope that we can develop better ways of protecting them and preventing cancer.”

 "Firefighters are routinely exposed to a variety of known carcinogens in chaotic and uncontrolled environments and they are much more likely to suffer from cancer than the average person, so we need to study and isolate the direct negative impacts of this exposure," Rep. Pascrell said.  "As chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, protecting the brave men and women who risk their lives for us is a top priority for me. Firefighters should have the tools they need to perform their duties safely, including all available information regarding the hazards they face and state-of-the art defenses against short-term and long-term health threats."

A 2013 National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health study found that firefighters have a 14 percent increased risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population. This makes cancer the leading cause of line of duty deaths among firefighters.

Sen. Menendez and Rep. Pascrell have introduced the bipartisan Firefighter Cancer Registry Act in both Houses of Congress to establish a specialized national cancer registry to improve collection infrastructure and research activities related to monitoring and studying cancer incidence among firefighters.  Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and 11 others have cosponsored the bill.  Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) is the chief House cosponsor.

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 healthcare 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.

Sen. Menendez, Rep. Pascrell and other supporters, including retired Haddon Heights Fire Chief and cancer survivor Gene Dannenfelster, gathered at Clifton Fire Station 5 to announce the legislation.

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 New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the International Fire Services Training Association, the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association.