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Arizona group praises new cancer registry for firefighters

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PHOENIX — An Arizona firefighters group said a new national firefighter’s cancer registry will be a big help.

“It will be able to centralize all the data from around the country — and particularly with workers comp cases,” said Joe Hester, executive vice president of Phoenix-based Professional Firefighters of Arizona.

“In the future, it will allow us to tap into that data for ways to prevent (cancer in firefighters); and also, during the workers comp process, to provide evidence for causation.”

President Donald Trump signed the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act into law in June.

The bill required the Centers for Disease Control to develop collection protocols and a database for firefighter-cancer data — who’s getting it, where and how often and what types.

It was hoped the registry will help firefighters and medical professionals understand the links between cancer and firefighting — and perhaps how to prevent it.

The administration must partner with national fire service organizations, including the International Association of Firefighters, to build the registry.

Hester said providing evidence of a link between cancer and firefighting has been a problem.

“It’s sometimes hard to provide empirical evidence because we don’t have enough studies, and we don’t have enough data.”

The Washington-based union said cancer was the third-leading cause of death among firefighters.

The group said part of it was hazardous exposure to chemicals such as benzene, asbestos and diesel exhaust.

Another part was the rising prevalence of plastics in homes and offices; when these burn, they release toxic fumes.

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