NIOSH Begins Data Collection for National Firefighter Registry

April 14 • 2019

Following the passage of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act in July 2018, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now directed to undertake the collection of detailed data on the occurrence of cancer in fire fighters.

The ultimate goal of the registry is to better understand the link between workplace exposures and cancer among fire fighters with the potential to provide a better understanding of cancer risk among under-represented populations of fire fighters.

Previous studies, including a study completed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2014, have highlighted fire fighters’ increased risk for certain cancers compared to the general population. However, past studies have generally not included sufficient numbers of female and minority fire fighters to draw conclusions regarding their risk of cancer.

Furthermore, it’s not fully understood how the risk of cancer varies with exposure or among fire fighters who are more likely to be exposed to products of combustion from burning of synthetic materials.

As an agency within the CDC, NIOSH has posted a Request for Information (RFI) to the Federal Register regarding the National Firefighter Registry seeking input on an approach to the registry, including potential enrollment methods. All stakeholders, including fire fighters, are encouraged to review the document and respond with comments.

Once the registry design is finalized, CDC/NIOSH will begin enrollment. Where possible, CDC/NIOSH will collect work history and exposure records to explore the relationship between exposures and cancer. CDC/NIOSH will also link with state cancer registries to confirm diagnoses. Findings will be shared through scientific publications and communications to stakeholders and the public.

From the registry information, CDC/NIOSH will estimate an overall rate of cancer for fire fighters and determine if certain groups of fire fighters are at a higher risk of cancer than others based on level of exposure, geography, gender or other factors, as well as study certain protective measures associated with a reduced risk for cancer, which could provide additional evidence and support for specific control interventions.

The registry is completely voluntary, and no one can force you to join. CDC/NIOSH will never collect information on any fire fighter without their informed consent. The CDC/NIOSH is interested in having all fire fighters participate in the registry, not just those with a cancer diagnosis or other health conditions.

Active and retired IAFF members are encouraged to join the registry, regardless of current health status.

CDC/NIOSH will always maintain privacy and will never share personal information with an outside organization, including fire departments, unions or other researchers without permission of the registry participant.

The IAFF and our affiliates worked diligently for more than two years with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to help pass the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.

For more information, contact the IAFF Division of Occupational Health and Safety at (202) 824-1571.