National Fire Fighter Registry: On Monday, July 9th 2018 President Donald Trump signed legislation requiring the CDC to set up a registry of fire fightersexternal icon that will track links between their workplace exposures and cancer.
NIOSH will take the lead in establishing the registry. In FY19, Congress appropriated $1 million to NIOSH towards implementation activities related to the Firefighter Cancer Registry. The language can be found in the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference-Division B-Labor, HHS accompanying H.R. 6157. If you have questions, email FFRegistry@cdc.gov
Previous studies, including a multi-year study completed by NIOSHpdf icon , indicate that firefighters are at a higher risk of cancer. However, these studies are limited by the inclusion of only small numbers of women and minorities, and a lack of data on volunteer firefighters. The registry will help provide more complete and representative information about fire fighters in the U.S. so that we may better understand the link between workplace exposures and cancer.
photo by Sandusky City Fire Department
photo by Jenny Lewelling
Suggestions for lowering firefighter cancer risk
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Times have changed, and so has the way we fight fire. Old school firefighters did not regularly (if ever) wear breathing apparatus, and old houses were made of real lumber cut from trees in true dimension and contained little or no plastics. Today, things are constructed fast and with materials designed to cut cost and be efficient. Fire these days burn faster and give off even more toxic fumes, and many materials are produced with cancer causing chemicals (known carcinogens).
According to NIOSH research, nearly 30,000 firefighters who participated in a study between 2010 and 2015 had higher rates of digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancer than the general population. They also had nearly twice as many cases of malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer triggered by asbestos exposure.
Back in the day dirty gear was a stutus symbol of where you fit into the hierarchy of interior firefighters within your department. Those with new or clean gear were made fun of, and often ridiculed. These days it is recommended that every firefighter has 2 complete sets of gear and all gear be thoroughly cleaned per standards after every fire. Boy how times have changed and we better change our approach to all of this with the times.
Follow these suggestions to help protect yourself from the risks of cancer:
insist that all your firefighters wear their full protective clothing during active firefighting practices and during the overhaul process.
insist that all your firefighters wear their SCBA and be breathing air from the cylinder during active firefighting practices and during the overhaul process.
while still on the fire scene decon your PPE and SCBA by spraying with water to flush off as much of the debris from the fire as possible.
while still on the fire scene decon your exposed body parts from debris by using a wet wipe of some type. Use these wherever or others can see dirt. Get someone else to help you if needed so you do not miss spots.
when you return from a fire you should thoroughly clean the SCBA including the straps, regulator, cylinders, and the face piece. You should also check and clean the mounting bracket, and area around the SCBA in the apparatus cab.
when you return from a fire you should thoroughly clean the apparatus cabs including seats, dash, floors, dog box, seat belts, step wells, and anything else that may have been contaminated while returning from the fire.
follow the manufacturers instructions and wash your PPE when you return to station and properly dry. If you do not have special equipment to wash your gear, then use a washing machine not used for other clothes. If you do not have that available to you then scrub your gear thoroughly with a garden hose, scrub brush, and a bucket of hot water with recommended soap.
when you return from a fire you should also wash your clothing (all of it) and put fresh clothes on.
Take a shower as soon as possible. We all know you can still smell the working fire smell once you get in the shower as the smell is coming out of your hair and the pores of your body. That is why it is very important to shower and thorougly scrub your hair and body as soon as you can. DO NOT go home or back to the station and get right in bed as you will contaminate your bedding.
wash your gear and clothes at the station, if you cannot do that, then put the items in a large trash bag and seal them until they can be cleaned.
yes we have all done it, at least those of us that have been around for a long time. We always kept our bunker pants near our bed in the station bunk room, or even worse kept them by the bed in our homes. That's a big no no these days, do NOT do that. Keep your gear in the designated rack or area at your station. If it has to be in your vehicle, then keep it in the truck or seperate compartment unless the gear is fully cleaned.
a nice tan looks cool, but skin cancer is not cool. Use approved sun screen whenever possible and especially in full sun.
your station should be free of all tobacco products and so should you. If you have to smoke, at least go outside the building and not force your second hand smoke on others.
do your self a favor and get an annual physical. Some times this can uncover some things that you had no idea were going on. It is another good rule of thumb to get your blood pressure and blood sugar checked often. We already have the knowledge and tools to check each others vitals and glucose, so why not practice on each other once in a while.
National Fire Fighter Registry:
On Monday, July 9th 2018 President Donald Trump signed legislation requiring the CDC to set up a registry of fire fightersexternal icon that will track links between their workplace exposures and cancer. NIOSH will take the lead in establishing the registry. In FY19, Congress appropriated $1 million to NIOSH towards implementation activities related to the Firefighter Cancer Registry. The language can be found in the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference-Division B-Labor, HHS accompanying H.R. 6157.
Public Law No: 115-194 (07/07/2018)
Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018
(Sec. 2) This bill requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop and maintain a voluntary registry of firefighters in order to collect history and occupational information that can be used to determine the incidence of cancer among firefighters. The registry must be used to improve monitoring of cancer among firefighters and to collect and publish epidemiological information. The CDC should seek to include specified information in the registry, including the number and type of fire incidents attended by an individual.
To collect information for the registry, the CDC must enable the registry to connect to state-based cancer registries.
The CDC must also: (1) develop a strategy to encourage participation in the registry, (2) develop guidance for states and firefighting agencies regarding the registry, and (3) seek feedback on the registry from nonfederal experts.
The CDC must make registry data available to the public and in accordance with privacy laws.