Sen. Charles Schumer wants to create a national health registry to track cancer among firefighters.
The registry, the first of its type ever proposed, would help doctors track and treat firefighters battling cancer, Schumer said Sunday at a Manhattan press conference.
Numerous studies have shown that firefighters have higher rates of several types of cancer than the general population.
They’re exposed to a range of harmful toxins as part of their job — and some are also still fighting cancers linked to 9/11.
Schumer, who made his announcement outside FDNY Engine 39 in Manhattan, said the national database would be voluntary.
It would be run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.
“With the ubiquitous presence of complex chemicals in our furniture, clothes and goods, (firefighters) are too often exposed to a caustic brew of toxins when fighting fires,” said Schumer, New York’s senior Democrat in the U.S. Senate.
“That is why it so important for Congress to pass this critical legislation to establish a national voluntary firefighter cancer registry, so researchers can better track, treat — and one day prevent — the potential connections between firefighting and cancer,” he said.
According to a five-year study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, there are twice as many firefighters in the U.S. with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, when compared to the general population.
The same study also found that firefighters also have an increased risk of death from lung cancer and leukemia as compared to the general population.
Research has shown a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several other major cancers, including testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers, Schumer said.
But there’s never been a long-term registry to track the potential connections between firefighting and incidences of cancer, he noted.
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, is also backing the legislation, Schumer said.
The bill, known as the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, has bipartisan support, Schumer added.
It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican who represents Central New York.