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Onondaga County lawmakers back national cancer registry for firefighters

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse firefighter Mark Valenti addresses the Onondaga County Legislature Tuesday.

A move toward federal legislation to create a cancer registry for firefighters is gaining more traction, and Onondaga County lawmakers are the latest to call for a registry.

The county legislature is throwing its support behind creation of a federal list that would keep track of firefighters who get cancer. There has already been research that shows a strong link between firefighting and an increased risk of several cancers. Syracuse firefighter Mike Valenti has been fighting for this registry for three years, as he continues to watch colleagues die.

“In a small department in Syracuse, to lose three guys in one year, all in their 50s, when we only have 345 firefighters, that’s a huge number,” said Valenti.

There is proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. County Legislator Chris Ryan says the more political support for paid and volunteer firefighters, the better.

“What this does is support that federal legislation, and urge its adoption, and say ‘get this done, find out, so we can begin to grasp the concept and help them.’”

Firefighters have a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population, according to a 2013 study. The registry would be voluntary, and the data would become available to researchers. That could ultimately lead to lead to the development of more safety protocols.