Menendez, Murkowski, Klobuchar, Rubio, Schumer Reintroduce Bipartisan Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation, along with original cosponsors Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), to create a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease.  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.

“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.”

“This is an issue that hits close to home, because we have seen firsthand in Alaska firefighters not only diagnosed with, but lose their battle with, cancer directly linked to exposure on the job. We must do what we can to address cancer rates among our firefighters—true heroes who put everything on the line for our safety,” said Sen. Murkowski.  “This critical legislation will enable us to look at the data and determine the best possible response to the increased risk of cancer among firefighters.  I am proud to support some of the bravest men and women in our communities.”

“Firefighters across Minnesota and our country sacrifice their safety each day for others in their community.  The very least we can do is help protect their health through improved research into the links between their work and occurrences of deadly diseases like cancer,” Sen. Klobuchar said.  “The establishment of a national cancer registry is an important step forward in helping our brave firefighters in their fight against this disease.”

“Firefighters put their lives on the line each and every time they are called on to protect civilians from dangerous fires, making them susceptible to multiple health complications, including cancer.  I am proud to support a bill that aims to prevent and protect firefighters from deadly diseases,” said Sen. Rubio.

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act 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.

The bill is also cosponsored by Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

“Every time a firefighter rushes bravely into a burning building, they aren’t just placing their life at risk in that heroic moment.  They are also putting themselves at greater risk of contracting certain cancers in the future,” Sen. Blumenthal said.  “By creating a national firefighter cancer database, this critical bill would paint a fuller picture of how cancer is afflicting firefighters with the goal of preventing these devastating illnesses.”

"Each and every day, firefighters across the nation are putting their lives at risk to protect ours,” Sen. Daines stated.  "While we cannot thank them enough for their courage and heroic duties, we must take action and protect them to the best of our abilities when their lives are on the line."

“Our brave firefighters put their lives on the line keeping our families and New Jersey communities safe. Just as they protect us, we have an obligation to protect them against threats to their health,” said Sen. Booker.  “By prioritizing data collection on the incidence of cancer among firefighters, we are reinforcing our commitment to improve the health and well-being of these courageous men and women.”

“Our brave firefighters here in New York City and across New York State are on the frontlines, risking their lives to protect our communities,” said Sen. Schumer.  “And now with the ubiquitous presence of complex chemicals in our furniture, clothes and goods, they are too often exposed to a caustic brew of toxins when fighting fires.  That is why it so important for Congress to pass this critical legislation introduced by Senator Menendez, so we can establish a national voluntary firefighter cancer registry for researchers to better track, treat – and one day prevent – the potential connections between firefighting and cancer.”

“Every day, firefighters in Arizona and around the country sacrifice their lives keep safe people whose names they will never know,” said Sen. McCain.  “This legislation is critical to improving research into deadly diseases that are too often associated with this noble profession. We must do more to protect the lives of those who protect us, and this bill is an important step in the right direction.”

“Firefighters take enormous risks when they do their job and are often exposed to toxins that can cause cancer,” said Sen. Gillibrand.  “This bipartisan bill would give our medical community access to the data they need to better understand the connection between firefighters’ increased exposure to harmful chemicals and cancer.” 

"Montana firefighters keep our families, our property, and our communities safe every day," Sen. Tester said.  "This bill will help us identify health risks and track critical data so we can better protect our first responders as they put their lives on the front line.”

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 first introduced the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act in May, during the last Congress.  Congressmen Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) are the lead sponsors of companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act 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.