WASHINGTON, D.C – Aug. 23, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the passage of $2 million in funding to implement the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Senator Van Hollen was an original co-sponsor of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, which was signed into law in July.
This legislation creates a national firefighter registry of cancer incidence – allowing for better research and understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer.
Statistics are limited, which is why this registry is so important. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), cancer is now considered the leading cause of line-of-duty death among firefighters and nearly 60 percent of the firefighters whose names are added to the National IAFF Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial have died from occupational cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also found that when compared with the general population, firefighters on average are at higher risk for certain kinds of cancer.
“Firefighters in Maryland and across the country put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. We know that cancer is an occupational hazard for firefighters – but this new funding will help lay the foundation to better understand the cancer risk they face and help inform how to reduce these risks. As we work to better study the health risks to those on the front lines of protecting our communities, I am also fighting every day for the best equipment to protect firefighters in Maryland and across the country,” said Senator Van Hollen.
There are hundreds of registered fire departments and thousands of firefighters across the state. Since Senator Van Hollen joined the Senate last year, Maryland fire and emergency medical service departments have received over $27 million in funding for new equipment, training, and other improvements that enhance their ability to protect the health and safety of the public and of first-responder personnel.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act authorizes $2 million in federal funds to the CDC from FY2018 to FY2022. Additionally, the legislation will:
• Develop a firefighter registry of available cancer incidence data collected by existing State Cancer Registries and a strategy to maximize participation;
• Create a registry that will contain relevant history, such as other occupational information, years of service, number of fire incidents responded to, and additional risk factors;
• Make de-identified data available to public health researchers to provide them with robust and comprehensive datasets to expand groundbreaking research; and
• Improve our understanding of cancer incidences by requiring administrators to consult regularly with public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters.