Cancer has become the leading cause of death among firefighters; Registry would help identify relationship between exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and cancer

WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today announced that bipartisan legislation to create a national cancer registry for firefighters diagnosed with the deadly disease has been signed into law. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and the incidence of cancer in firefighters.

“Cancer has become the leading cause of death for firefighters, but we still don’t know exactly why— we must do more to protect the people who protect us,” Klobuchar said. “Now that the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017 has become law, we can collect valuable information to understand the relationship between fighting fires and cancer diagnoses. We owe it to our firefighters to study this trend and prevent it from continuing.”

Klobuchar introduced the legislation with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) along with 45 additional cosponsors.

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. The registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer – and could potentially lead to the development of more sophisticated safety protocols and safeguards for firefighters.  Specifically, the registry would store and consolidate epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters and make de-identified data available to public health researchers to provide them with comprehensive datasets to expand groundbreaking research. The registry’s administrators will be required to consult regularly with epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters.  

In recent years, Klobuchar has travelled the state meeting with firefighters and promoting the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. She has also been a leader in the fight to protect people from harmful carcinogens. In February, Klobuchar and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which recently passed the Senate. The bill would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits, such as cancer, and treat veterans who become sick after exposure. In 2010, Klobuchar along with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act that directed the EPA to establish national standards for formaldehyde emissions in new composite wood products.