Bill would boost research on cancer among firefighters

Legislation to create a national registry for firefighters diagnosed with cancer, to collect data and improve research on incidents of cancer among firefighters, is advancing in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is a member, in late April advanced the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.

“The stark reality we have seen firsthand in Alaska is that firefighters are diagnosed with cancers directly linked to exposure on the job,” she said. “I am reminded of Anchorage firefighter Andy Mullen, who in 1997, responded to a routine call – a brush fire. Thirteen years later, Andy was diagnosed with cancer caused by exposure to toxins from electrical wires from that brush fire, and eventually lost his life.”

“Firefighters are regularly exposed to harmful toxins and it is increasing their risk for several major cancers,” she said. “This legislation takes an important step towards addressing cancer rates among firefighters – brave men and women who put everything on the line for our safety.”

Tom Wescott, president of the Alaska Professional Firefighters, applauded Murkowski’s effort, said that gathering the data, studying it and working to reduce cancer in the fire service will save lives.