Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

POUGHKEEPSIE – Surrounded by dozens of local firefighters and local leaders this week, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched a major effort to pass legislation that would, for the time ever, establish a specialized national cancer registry to be managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During a visit to the Poughkeepsie Fire Department, Schumer explained that the registry would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters – career and volunteer.

City of Poughkeepsie photo

City of Poughkeepsie photo

Schumer said firefighters in the Hudson Valley and across the country are exposed to a range of harmful toxins and research has indicated that there may be connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers such as testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers.

“Our brave firefighters in Dutchess County and across New York are on the frontlines, risking their lives to protect our communities,” said Senator Schumer. “And now with the ubiquitous presence of complex chemicals in our furniture, clothes and goods, they are too often exposed to a caustic brew of toxins when fighting fires. That is why it so important for Congress to pass this critical legislation to establish a national voluntary firefighter cancer registry, so researchers can better track, treat – and one day prevent – the potential connections between firefighting and cancer.”

Schumer explained that firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins when responding to emergency situations, often as a result of the noxious flame retardants and other chemicals that are used in everyday items, from furniture, to clothing, and to even children’s toys. Experts and scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm on the danger of these toxic chemicals because they have been found to cause developmental delays in children from long-term exposure in addition to rare cancers in firefighters when these products burn and the toxins become airborne.

Schumer said research has indicated that there is a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers, including testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma and brain cancers. However, there has never been a long-term registry put in place that could be used to track the potential connections between firefighting and incidences of cancer. Schumer therefore said a national firefighter cancer registry is needed, so experts and researchers can more effectively monitor nationwide trends and incidences of cancer among firefighters – both career and volunteer. Schumer said such a registry would help medical professionals more effectively identify and treat cancer in firefighters over the long term.

Therefore, Schumer is pushing legislation that would create this registry, which would help better protect the firefighters who safeguard citizens’ lives day in and day out. Schumer is co-sponsoring the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, S.2799, in the Senate alongside Senator Bob Menendez [D-NJ]. This bipartisan legislation was introduced by Congressman Richard Hanna in the House of Representatives. Schumer explained that this national firefighter cancer registry would be managed by the CDC and would improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters.

Specifically this national firefighter cancer registry would do the following:

– First, this registry would compile in one place the epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters.

– Second, it would make anonymous data available to public health researchers so that they would have access to the comprehensive datasets that will allow them to expand this groundbreaking research.

– Third, this registry would improve our understanding of cancer incidence as the registry grows, which could potentially lead to the development of advanced safety protocols and safeguards for the firefighters on the front lines each day.

– Finally, this bill would allow for increased collaboration between the CDC and epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians and firefighters through regular and consistent consultations to improve the effectiveness and accuracy of the registry.

Schumer was joined by City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison; Poughkeepsie Fire Chief Mark Johnson; Dutchess County Commissioner of Emergency Response, Dana Smith; Jim McPadden, President of the City Of Poughkeepsie Fire Fighters Local 569,  and Vice President Michael Comuto.

“The City of Poughkeepsie Fire Fighters Local 596 is grateful for Senator Chuck Schumer’s continued support of the fire service. We are specifically grateful for his efforts to help create a national registry to enhance cancer research and prevention. With the creation of this registry, we all hope to eradicate this life altering disease,” said Michael Camuto, Vice President, City Of Poughkeepsie Fire Fighters Local 569.

“The City of Poughkeepsie Fire Department would like to convey our deepest appreciation to Senator Schumer for his steadfast support of our fire department, and more importantly, this incredible bill. A national registry will allow for researchers to study and understand incidences of cancer among firefighters and learn what precautions can be taken to lower firefighters’ risk of diagnosis. As firefighters, we risk our lives constantly, but with the help of the Senator, we will be a little safer and we, as well as our friends and families, will benefit greatly,” said Mark Johnnson, City of Poughkeepsie Fire Department.

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