A nationwide cancer registry for both career and volunteer firefighters. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was recently in Schoharie, in upstate New York promoting a bipartisan bill that would create a nationwide cancer registry for both career and volunteer firefighters.
“We’re learning that our firefighters have increased risk and exposure to cancer,” said Schumer. “With all the new chemicals that go into buildings, and that go into furniture, and that go into clothing, and that go into mattresses, they get in the air and these new complicated chemicals can cause cancer,” reports The Daily Gazette.
Senator Schumer’s Cancer Registry Plans
Senator Schumer was recently elected as senate minority leader by colleagues and has a long history of being a staunch advocate for those in need and has no hesitation reaching across the aisle to get things done. The rising cancer rate among firefighters was brought to the forefront on the aftermath of 9/11 with attention being focused on the Zadroga Act and the necessity to provide testing and treatment for emergency responders who worked at ground zero after the September 11th attacks. Senator Schumer’s current issue is the need to create a national database that could identify cancer trends across a wider spectrum from firefighters working in every part of the United States.
Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are actively reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have suffered from symptoms related to chemical exposure including individuals affected by Ground Zero exposure.
Research on many chemicals used in building and fabrication materials have been linked to an increase in major cancers such as testicular, multiple myeloma, and brain cancers. Senator Schumer’s goal is for these chemicals to be banned or at the very least, restricted.
“This would let us see what chemicals were causing this kind of stuff, and you need a big registry” said Schumer, noting that a higher incidence of cancer in firefighters in Schoharie, for example, would not be a broad enough sample to justify outlawing specific substances. “That’s not enough of a sample to figure it out, but if you did it across the country, you could figure it out.”
The database for the cancer registry would be collected anonymously and available to both volunteer and career firefighters. The database would be monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and be made available to cancer researchers who would then be able to identify the potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
“This positive collaboration between cancer researchers and epidemiologists would ideally lead to protocols being established that would lead to the banning of specific dangerous chemicals,” said Schumer. The Senator added if the bill became law that legislators would examine establishing a health plan for firefighters based on the cancer registry.
A Future Cancer Registry-based Health Plan
“We might eventually be able to do what we did for the 9/11 people and get these cancers taken care of on a health plan that’s paid for, for our firefighters,” said Schumer. “That’s down the road, but it all starts with this registry that’s very, very important.”
Schumer admitted there is concern of a future cancer registry-based health plan leading to local unfunded mandates, but that question is one that will be examined once the registry is established.
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Schumer. “The Zadroga bill ended up being somewhat expensive .. we first have to see what we have to do here, find out what these [chemicals] are, and if we abolish them that will be a big step in itself, which won’t cost anything.”
Schumer noted that the bill has bipartisan support and a version has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Advocates of the bill hope to get it passed in the so-called lame duck session after Thanksgiving but before President Barack Obama leaves office.
In a study conducted recently a report was released detailing the health and safety risks and hazards of firefighting on the men and women that make up the profession and is increasingly well-documented. Cardiovascular and chemical exposure risks from the combustion of common household contents inside modern structures is understood to be very real. However, researchers have yet to be able to recreate the physical environment of a real modern day fire in such a way that meaningful data could be collected and analyzed. Collaborators in this report include: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Program, Illinois Fire Service Institute – IFSI Research.
It is clear Senator Schumer’s attention to increasing information and support for firefighters everywhere is a subject that will hopefully move forward with new and effective legislation.
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