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Congress Moves to Create a National Registry for Cancer Among Firefighters

Written by Brent Eames

July 6, 2018

According to data provided by the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters in the United States respond to 35 million calls for assistance annually, and they are exposed to nearly two million fires or incidents involving hazardous materials each year.  As a result, studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have demonstrated a link between working as a firefighter and a substantially larger risk of developing certain types of cancer.  In order to address this issue, Congress has passed bipartisan legislation which seeks to develop a registry which will make it easier to research these occupational hazards and study the link between working as a firefighter and a heightened risk of developing cancer.

The proposed legislation is known as the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018.  If this Act becomes law, it should improve resources for research into the occupational hazards faced by firefighters in the United States, with the stated goal of identifying and screening for specific cancers and identifying and developing improved safety equipment and protocols to combat the risks.  The legislation calls for firefighters across the country to enter their demographics and health information into a national registry which would be linked to existing data in state cancer registries.  This information may be entered anonymously.  The registry would then be used to improve monitoring of cancer among firefighters and to collect and publish epidemiological information regarding cancer among firefighters.

The Act calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to include specified information in the registry, including the number and type of fire incidents attended by an individual.  The Act also calls for the CDC to develop a process for making registry data available for research without a fee if findings or publications from the research are made public or available to stakeholders.  The analyses of data in such a registry may provide for useful information which can identify firefighting departments with lower overall instances of cancer, and thus, presumably better and more efficient work practices which can be exemplified across the country.   In addition to providing Congressional funding for the national registry, the Act may have the added benefit of raising much-needed awareness regarding this important public health issue.  The Act is currently awaiting the President’s signature.

The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact Brent Eames at Eames Law Group, Ltd.

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