House Passes Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

Representatives Chris Collins (left) and Bill Pascrell (right) are the original cosponsors of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.

On September 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, by a voice vote. H.R. 931 directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and maintain a voluntary registry of firefighters to collect relevant history and occupational information that can be linked to available cancer registry data in existing state cancer registries. Representatives Chris Collins (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who introduced H.R. 931 earlier this year, spoke on the House floor before the vote to urge their colleagues to pass the bill.

“I’d like to thank Representatives Collins, Pascrell, and the entire House of Representatives for voting to move this critical legislation forward,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chair Kevin D. Quinn. “Too many firefighters are contracting and dying from cancer caused by duty-related exposures. This registry will improve our understanding of why firefighter cancer is occurring at such a high rate, and make it easier to prevent, detect, and treat.”

Chief Brian McQueen represented the NVFC at a press conference promoting the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act in 2016.

For years studies have indicated a strong link between firefighting and increased risk for several major cancers. An extensive study published by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2014 found that firefighters were at an increased risk of being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and found potential links between exposure to fire incidents and heightened risks for lung cancer and leukemia, among several others.

Past studies examining cancer incidence among firefighters have been limited by relatively small sample sizes and an underrepresentation of minority, female, and volunteer firefighters. The registry that would be created under H.R. 931 would give researchers and public health agencies access to information about a much larger and more diverse group of firefighters, including volunteers.

H.R. 931 now goes to the U.S. Senate. Identical legislation (S. 382) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and 11 other original cosponsors on February 15.