President Donald Trump signed a bill on Monday to create a national voluntary cancer registry for firefighters.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act requires the Centers for Disease Control to start tracking and collecting data from firefighters with cancer across the country. The hope is that over time, the information gathered will allow researchers to develop better equipment and improved prevention techniques.
Columbus firefighter Mark Rine, diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, says the new national registry is a game-changer.
“This information that is collected will absolutely transform the fire service,” Rine said. “This way you’ll require not only the CDC but you’ll require health care providers to keep track and then all that information will be computed and we’ll have all of that together to be able to formulize and see what exactly is going on.”
When Rine was first diagnosed six years ago, doctors told him his cancer was likely caused by on the job exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Since then he has made it his mission to educate other firefighters and to work for change.
Some of that change came with a new state law that makes firefighters eligible for worker’s compensation benefits for cancers linked to the job.
“I think what we did here really got the ball moving,” Rine said. “Now we’re seeing the side effects of that and they’re positive side effects... now it’s good to see the United States government recognize it and say, ‘let’s make sure that not only can we help them but let’s make sure we can prevent it - because ultimately that’s the best way to cure cancer is with prevention.”
The new law authorizes $2 million in federal funds to the C-D-C over the next four years to get the national registry up and working.