Police & Fire

Bill by Pascrell and Menendez to Monitor Cancer in Firefighters Signed into Law

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Wayne Wolk, Executive Vice President, NJ FMBA, spoke at a press conference on July 3 on the importance of the cancer registry legislation. Credits: John Hund
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Senator Robert Menendez co-authored the bill along with Congressman Bill Pascrell. Credits: John Hund
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PATERSON, NJ – A law requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a national cancer registry for firefighters to monitor and study the relationship between career-long exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins and the incidence of cancer in firefighters so to develop better protective gear and prevention techniques has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The bill, co-authored by Congressman Bill Pascrell and Senator Robert Menendez, is critical to the health and safety of firefighters, and is, according to Kyle Hughes, President of FMBA Local 2, the union the represents Paterson’s firefighters, “an important recognition that the dangers involved in firefighting extend well beyond us putting the flames out.”

“We don’t need studies to tell us that our brothers and sisters in the fire service are developing illnesses like cancer at abnormally high rates,” Hughes told TAPinto Paterson. “While our jobs will always be dangerous, we applaud Congressman Pascrell and Senator Menendez for working with us to make it healthier.

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A 2015 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths for certain types of cancer when compared to the general U.S. population, specifically digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers, and malignant mesothelioma, a fact, the report found, attributable to the exposure firefighters face to dangerous toxins.  

Saying that “the brave men and women of the fire services who put their lives on the line for us each day deserve every ounce of support,” Pascrell, who also serves as co-chair of the Congressional Fire Caucus, called passing the bill “Congress’s way of having their backs.”

“After years of meeting with firefighters about the need to better understand the cancer risks they face, I am so proud and grateful that our bipartisan efforts finally paid off and the Fire Fighter Cancer Registry Act is now law,” said Sen. Menendez who committed to continuing to work “to make sure the CDC gets the registry up and running as soon as possible.”

Also commending Pascrell and Menendez for their efforts was Wayne Wolk, Executive Vice President of the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association (NJ FMBA), the union that represents over 5,000 career firefighters, EMTs, and dispatchers across New Jersey. “Just as the members of the NJ FMBA will never waver in answering an alarm, acting when the situation is most dire, Senator Menendez and Congressman Pascrell have never faltered in their support for us,” Wolk said.

“This is serious legislation that will ultimately allow our members to continue to serve our communities while protecting our health through research, prevention and proper equipment to minimize the causes of a cancer related incidents.  This is the kind of action we want to see coming out of Washington, D.C., and it’s no surprise that it is two powerful leaders from New Jersey making it happen.”

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