A new law that requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a registry to collect data on firefighter cancer was signed yesterday by President Trump.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act calls for the collection of voluntary data including whether a firefighter is a career professional or volunteer, years on the job, the number of calls responded to, and incident type so that researchers can better understand the impact of smoke inhalation and other job-related dangers that may lead to cancer.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), firefighters face a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the general population in the United States. The hope is that the new Firefighter Cancer Registry data will influence firefighter protocol, inform medical research and enhance treatment for firefighters battling the dreaded disease.
The CDC is charged with stimulating participation in the voluntary registry, developing guidance for state agencies, and ensuring that once the information is collected it is made public and available for research purposes. The federal registry will electronically connect to state-based registries to glean local cancer diagnosis, pathological, and treatment details.
Firefighter contamination and occupational cancer have been organizational priorities for NFPA for many years. NFPA and its affiliate, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, have partnered with international fire groups, academic institutions, healthcare leaders, like-minded organizations and others to conduct research, identify safety gaps, develop best practices and educate audiences about the cancer risks that exist on the fire ground, and in firehouses, gear and apparatus. NFPA research reports, editorial content, fact sheets, safety bulletins, and workshops have helped to inform firefighters, their families, and community leaders about cancer in the fire service - and keep this important issue top of mind.
The campaign for the Firefighter Cancer Registry began in February 2017 when Buffalo area state representative Chris Collins proposed a bill to capture firefighter demographic information and exposure data.
After the announcement from the White House, Collins told Buffalo News, "We currently have a lack of information about how being exposed to certain fires will impact a firefighter's health, and this is a common-sense way to collect that data to improve protocols and equipment. I express my deepest gratitude for our nation's firefighters and first responders, and take pride in knowing that this registry could lead to reforms that will save lives."
Well-played and well-said, Mr. Collins. NFPA and the global fire community thank you for leading the charge to protect those who protect us.