Firefighter Cancer Registry Act becomes law

Legislation directing federal studies into the relationship between long term exposure to dangerous toxins and fumes and the frequency of cancer in firefighters has now become law.

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, for which Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was an original cosponsor, creates a national registry for firefighters diagnosed with cancer, and directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the relationship between career-long exposure to these toxins and fumes and the frequency of cancer in firefighters to determine if there is a link.

Murkowski said her inspiration to be the lead Republican on the bipartisan legislation came from Anchorage firefighter Andy Mullen, a strong advocate for firefighter concerns, who died of cancer caused by exposure to toxins from electrical wires from a brush fire.

“I am hopeful that the data gathered through this law will help improve fire ground safety and prevent stories like Andy’s from being repeated again,” she said.

“Each day, firefighters sacrifice their safety for communities across Alaska and the entire nation,” Murkowski said. “Cancer is an added danger that they simply should not have to face. Creating this registry will help pinpoint common links to cancer at a national level, allowing us to better protect firefighters across our nation.”

The bill calls for collection and consolidation of epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals regarding cancer incidence among firefighters, both paid and volunteer. Its aim is to improve understanding of cancer incidence, potentially resulting in upgrades in safety protocols as more data is accrued. It requires administrators to consult regularly with epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters to ensure the effectiveness of the registry.