Loveland, Ohio – Today, President Trump signed U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan legislation to establish a voluntary cancer registry for firefighters into law. Brown’s bill, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and maintain a voluntary registry to collect data on cancer incidence among firefighters.
Loveland/Symmes Fire Chief Otto Huber said in reaction to the announcement, “Any data collection that will assist the national fire service in evaluating the risk associated with Firefighting will go along way to improving how we manage risk on the fire ground.”
The data collected by the registry will be used with existing state data to better assess and prevent cancer among firefighters. The Senate passed Brown’s bill by unanimous consent in May.
“Ohio firefighters put their lives on the line every day,” said Brown. “The enactment of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act will help ensure we’re using all of the tools at our disposal to prevent and treat cancer in first responders who sacrifice their own safety to protect others.”
Huber said, “Today’s modern construction and products of combustion from petroleum based furnishing place our members in a higher risk then ever. We must rethink how we deploy and how we protect our members against today’s risks.”
In addition to establishing the volunteer registry, Brown’s bill requires the CDC to develop a strategy to maximize participation, develop guidance for state agencies, encourage inclusion among participants and to seek feedback from nonfederal experts. The CDC would also be required to ensure the data collected is made public and accessible for research.
“I am pleased that the national spot light is on this subject. We need to work collaboratively to improve fire ground safety and reduce the exposure to our members of the products of combustion,” said Huber.
Findings from a Study of Cancer among U.S. Fire Fighters
In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) began a multi-year study of nearly 30,000 fire fighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Fire Departments to better understand the potential link between fire fighting and cancer. The study was a joint effort led by researchers at NIOSH in collaboration with researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the University of California at Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, and supported in part by the U.S Fire Administration. This study was completed in late 2015.
What we found
The fire fighters we studied showed higher rates of certain types of cancer than the general U.S. population.
Based on U.S. cancer rates:
●● Fire fighters in our study had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths.
○● These were mostly digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.
●● There were about twice as many fire fighters with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
○● Exposure to asbestos while fire fighting is the most likely explanation for this.●● There were more cases of certain cancers among younger fire fighters.
○● For example, fire fighters in our study who were under 65 years of age had more bladder and prostate cancers than expected.
When comparing fire fighters in our study to each other:
- ●● The chance of lung cancer diagnosis or death increased with amount of time spent at fires.
- ●● The chance of leukemia death increased with the number of fire runs.