NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today announced that Rutgers University was awarded $1,495,212.43 to support their cancer research and prevention study on volunteer firefighters. The study, which is a three-year project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), aims to prevent cancer in volunteer firefighters by better understanding the risk factors and their exposures to cancer-causing agents.

“When the alarm bell rings, firefighters across New Jersey put their health and safety on the line to protect their communities,” said Sen. Menendez. “I applaud Rutgers for taking the initiative to better understand the effects dangerous fumes, toxins, and carcinogens have on volunteer firefighters. Along with my national Firefighter Cancer Registry, this study will give us a better understanding of the link between cancer and firefighters, as well as ways to develop better protective gear and preventative techniques.”

“Volunteer firefighters across New Jersey put their lives on the line day each day protecting our communities, so it’s imperative we do all we can to ensure their safety,” said Sen. Booker. “This federal funding will help us better assess and address volunteer firefighters’ cancer risk, and I applaud Rutgers University for taking this important step towards protecting those who protect us.”

The Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study (CAPS) will work with fire departments across the state and offer firefighters the opportunity to be part of the national Fire Fighters Cancer Cohort Study (FFCCS), an ongoing study of cancer and cancer risk among firefighters. CAPS will also work with state and national partners to engage volunteer fire departments throughout the nation in their research and to disseminate their findings to help reduce cancer risk in volunteer firefighters.

"With this FEMA funding, the Cancer Assessment and Prevention Study (CAPS) will engage with volunteer firefighters and stakeholders in New Jersey and nationally to inform a meaningful understanding of cancer risk among volunteer firefighters and cancer prevention strategies," said Judith Graber, Associate Professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health. “We will provide much needed knowledge about unique exposures and challenges among volunteers, who make up a significant but understudied majority of the fire service. I am proud to be leading CAPS into this effort as part of the national Firefighters Cancer Cohort Study, providing a valuable resource for additional studies of volunteer firefighters in New Jersey and across the US.”

In 2018, Sen. Menendez’s and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr.’s (N.J.-09) Firefighter Cancer Registry Act was signed into law. The bill created a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease and 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.

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 the link between firefighting exposures and cancer.