In emergencies, while the rest of us run from danger, firefighters run toward it. And when they rush into the flames they’re not just putting their lives on the line — even firefighters who come home safely face long-term health risks.
A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study confirms that firefighters face an increased risk of cancer because of exposure on the job.
That’s why I worked with my colleagues on the bipartisan Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, which President Trump signed into law last month.
Our bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create and maintain a voluntary registry to collect data on cancer among firefighters. We’ll use that data, along with existing state data, to better assess the ways our first responders are at risk, so we can work to prevent more cancer diagnoses.
We’re also requiring the CDC to develop a strategy to maximize participation in the registry, so we can get accurate, useful data. All the data in the registry will be made public, so other experts can use it in their own research.
Last week, I talked with Mike Taylor, President of the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters. Mike, like many other Ohio firefighters, has seen too many of his brothers and sisters fall victim to the scourge of cancer.
We need to learn why firefighters are at such high risk, and get researchers the data they need to find answers and solutions.
National firefighter organizations, including the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the International Association of Fire Fighters, among others, pushed for this legislation.
We know this is just a first step and there’s a lot more work to do to protect our first responders. But this bill will help us make progress.
If you only watch cable news, you wouldn’t think anything bipartisan is getting done in Washington. But this legislation is another example of how there are plenty of issues where we put partisanship aside, and come together to do what’s right for the people who serve this country.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.