Brown introduces Firefighter Cancer Registry Reauthorization Act

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 2, 2023

Legislation would focus on relationship between firefighting and cancer incidences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined Senate colleagues to introduce the Firefighter Cancer Registry Reauthorization Act, to ensure the vital database can continue, with additional resources. 

The registry, which was enacted in 2018 and officially went online earlier this year, is the largest effort undertaken to understand the risk of cancer among U.S. firefighters. The original legislation directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a database of firefighters diagnosed with cancer and to monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and the incidence of cancer in firefighters to determine if there is a link. The registry can be used to develop better protective gear and prevention techniques.

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“While the rest of us run from danger, firefighters run toward it,” said Brown. “And when they rush into the flames, they put their lives on the line – even firefighters who come home safely face long-term health risks. This bipartisan bill protects the Firefighter Cancer Registry and puts additional resources toward understanding the long-term health risks Ohio firefighters face, so that we can strengthen our tools to prevent and treat these health threats.” 

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the program for an additional five years and increase the annual authorization level to $5.5 million, in line with the program’s current appropriation. The additional funding level would help support critical cybersecurity and encryption measures to protect sensitive personal data, as well as help expand enrollment and outreach efforts. This extension and funding increase will allow the CDC to continue collecting the data necessary to study the occupational risks of firefighters.

Joining Brown in supporting the legislation is U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Jon Tester, D-Montana.

Firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins, and research has indicated a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers, such as testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma, and brain cancers. However, due to the limited availability of data, there has historically been large gaps in the information available about the incidence of cancer in firefighters.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, First Responder Center of Excellence, the International Association of Firefighters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs support this legislation.

In April, Brown announced Senate passage of legislation to increase support for local fire departments. The bill would reauthorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, and the United States Fire Administration (USFA). In 2021, Ohio Fire Departments received 411 AFG and 33 SAFER grants.