NEW JERSEY – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer and New Jersey firefighters Friday announced new bipartisan federal legislation, the Firefighter Investments to Recognize Exposure to Cancer Act (FIRE Cancer Act), which will provide federal investments so that all firefighters across America can access multi-cancer early detection tests and other preventative tests at no out-of-pocket cost — no matter if they’re volunteer or professional firefighters.
The FIRE Cancer Act is endorsed by the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association, and the National Association of Government Employees.
Between 2002 and 2019, cancer caused 66% of the professional firefighter line-of-duty deaths. Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer, and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer, than the general American population. Firefighters are often exposed to toxic chemicals at high levels, including cancer-causing carcinogens present during their responses and at the fire station on their turnout gear.
Gottheimer called on the New Jersey State Legislature to pass legislation and ensure that all volunteer and professional firefighters in New Jersey are covered for cancer tests. New Jersey State Senator Linda Greenstein and Assemblyman Sterley Stanley led legislation that was signed into law to help professional firefighters access cancer testing. Senators Vin Gopal and Greenstein and Assemblyman Stanley are working to pass legislation to get the same screenings for volunteer firefighters.
“Everyone knows about the immediate dangers our firefighters face when they run into a burning building. But, what’s not often talked about nearly enough is the silent killer they come home with after putting out the fire. Let me make this very clear: early cancer detection saves lives and the firefighters standing next to me here today need resources to access cancer testing,” said Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the bipartisan Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “The bottom line is that if you are a firefighter, you should be screened for cancer on a regular basis at no out-of-pocket cost. This is the least we can do for the sacrifices they make. The FIRE Cancer Act will help do just that.”
“New Jersey has long been known as an innovative state, and that includes the thoughtful legislation and policies our lawmakers have championed over the years,” said New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJ FMBA) President Eddie Donnelly. “Whether it’s been grants to make our firefighters safer; the development of the national Cancer Registry to track incidents of this dreaded disease; or now funding to regularly test the men and women of the fire service if they are struck as a result of their lifesaving efforts so that they can receive early treatment; the work to protect our community’s first responders is often born right here in our state. We appreciate the hard work of Congressman Gottheimer to champion this legislation and the NJ FMBA pledges its full support to see this legislation signed into law.”
“Multi-cancer early detection has been, and remains a priority of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ). The health and safety of our members is always paramount. Over the past 20 years, cancer caused 66 percent of the career firefighter line-of-duty deaths. Data has proven that firefighters have higher risk of being diagnosed and dying from cancer than the general U.S. population. The evidence is clear that cancer is, and will continue to be the leading occupational illness affecting firefighters, said PFANJ President Steve Steve McConlogue. “The PFANJ has led the way to pass legislation bringing firefighter cancer screenings to New Jersey career firefighters, and we proudly stand with our friend, Congressman Gottheimer to help bring these life saving tests to firefighters across America, and we applaud him for championing this legislation.”
“On behalf of the 100,000 members we are proud to represent, especially the over 6,000 firefighters, EMTs, and dispatchers of the NJ FMBA, IAEP, and NAGE EMS, NAGE is proud to support this important piece of legislation,” said National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) National President David J. Holway. “I can’t think of a more awesome responsibility of our lawmakers than to protect those who have given so much of themselves to protect our communities. This funding, which will provide regular testing for cancer, and will allow for early treatment, cannot come soon enough.”
Gottheimer was joined at the Hackensack Fire Department by New Jersey State Senators Linda Greenstein and Gordon Johnson, Hackensack Fire Chief Thomas Freeman, FMBA President Eddie Donnelly, PFANJ President Steve McConlogue, PFANJ First Vice President Matthew Caliente, New Jersey State Firemen’s Association President Robert F. Ordway, New Jersey State Firemen’s Association Vice President Joe Hankins, Rob Ziegler, who is a former firefighter battling cancer, and New Jersey firefighters.