A national registry of cancers afflicting the nation’s firefighters, with epidemiological information from health care professionals and anonymous data available to top public health researchers, would help “smoke out” deadly diseases, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.
At an Upper East Side FDNY firehouse, New York’s senior senator pushed legislation to create the database as the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches.
Schumer said he believes the registry would have ample participation because it would be voluntary and the information anonymous to protect privacy. It would be managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.
“We want to smoke out some of the cancers that affect the bravest,” the Democrat said, calling firefighters the “domestic version of our soldiers” who “rush to danger and risk their lives for our safety.”
Firefighters’ risk of cancer can be twice that of other people, and thousands of Long Island firefighters would benefit from the bill, Schumer’s office said.
The legislation, which Schumer said has bipartisan support in Congress, would be an important step toward curbing the long-term and fatal damage caused by exposure to harmful toxins — as exemplified by the high rate of cancers among first responders who toiled at Ground Zero, firefighter union representatives said.
Firefighters approached Schumer about the legislation, Uniformed Fire Officers Association president James LeMonda said at the news conference.
“The chemistry of fire over the years has changed,” LeMonda said. “The introduction of hydrocarbons has produced a more dangerous atmosphere, an atmosphere in which we operate every single day. The hydrocarbons are carcinogens.”
Representatives for the Centers for Disease Control, or the CDC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.