Local firefighters – along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar – want to establish a national cancer registry to track the relationship between firefighters' exposure to fumes and toxins and cancer diagnoses.
Research has indicated there's a strong connection between the two, but there's not enough data at this point to know for sure.
The hope is that with the data that would come from a national registry, researchers could figure it out.
"Otherwise we're just closing our eyes and knowing that when they run into that building on fire that that's the immediate danger,” Klobuchar said Monday. "But the long term danger is they're going to get cancer.”
"It's going to provide more statistics and more hard data for politicians and claim deniers and people who are in positions of power like this to prove that firefighters are getting cancers at much higher rates than the general public,” former firefighter Steve Shapira said.
Shapira said he is battling non-Hodgkins B cell lymphoma and knows many other firefighters facing similar ailments. In fact, Shapira works with the Firefighter Cancer Support Network and delivers tool-boxes and badge-to-badge support to other firefighters, like Brian Kroeger, who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
"It does make you think," Kroeger said. "You're doing this job that you love and you really enjoy going to work every day and then, is it affecting you this way? You just don't know."
Klobuchar said the bill that would establish the national registry has bipartisan support and she expects it to pass. Shapira says it's essential to protect the people who spend their careers protecting the rest of us.