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National registry for cancer-stricken firefighters stalls in US House

(Flickr/bizarrellama)

PHOENIX — A bill that would create a national registry for firefighters who were diagnosed with cancer is awaiting approval in the U.S. House.

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act passed out of the U.S. Senate unanimously on May 10th after being introduced in February.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is a sponsor of the bill, said in a release that the bill will require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “develop a strategy to maximize participation, develop guidance for state agencies, encourage inclusion among participants and to seek feedback from non-federal experts.”

The bill would also require the agency to make the data that was collected public and accessible for research.

Deputy Chief Forrest Smith with Mesa Fire and Medical said advances in modern manufacturing mean more cancer risk for firefighters.

“Once they burn, they break down to some of the most toxic chemicals that are out there,” he said, adding that the toxic byproducts can include chlorine gas.

If the bill is signed into law, $2.5 million would be appropriated to the agency for fiscal years 2018-2022.

In the meantime, Smith said, firefighters are being encouraged to take preventive measures.

“We’ve been stressing the importance of cleaning our materials between fires,” he said.

The bill, which received a unanimous vote Sept. 12, was amended before its passage. The House now has to approve the amended version. If it does, it will head to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Research on the link between firefighters and cancer diagnoses is also taking place in Arizona.

In 2015, the University of Arizona received $1.5 million to study how to reduce exposure to carcinogens – especially from inhalation and skin exposure. The university is working with the Tucson Fire Department on that research.

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