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Austin Fire Department members react to Senate bill dealing with firefighter health

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AUSTIN, Minn. (FOX 47) -

Firefighters risk their lives all the time to save those of others.  But on their jobs, they sometimes take risks with their health that many of us may not know they're taking.  

Legislation has been passed by the U.S. Senate to look out for the health of firefighters. 

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act is being called bipartisan legislation to create a national cancer registry for firefighters.  It's supported by both of Minnesota's U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.  

Klobuchar's office has released a statement, saying "With cancer becoming the leading cause of death for firefighters, we need to learn more about the cancer risks our firefighters face so we can support them if they get sick. Right now, we don’t know enough to protect the people protecting us.  The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017 will start giving us the information we need to ensure the health and safety of those who put their lives in danger to keep us safe."

The bill calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor and study the relationship between exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins that firefighters may experience through their careers.  Under the bill, the CDC is also to determine if there is a link between exposure and disease in order to provide better protective gear and prevention techniques.  Firefighters in Austin say they're glad elected representatives have their back, since firefighters are more likely to get certain diseases due to the nature of their job.

"Statistically speaking, firefighters have a higher incidence of cancer than the general public," says Austin Firefighter Engineer Timothy Olson, "That's for obvious reasons, we're dealing with very toxic smoke.  That's part of our job, so we do have a much higher tendency to have cancer than the general public."  

Along with cancer, firefighters can sometimes get communicable diseases due to dealing with hospital patients who might have a disease the firefighter may not have an immunity to.  They also have a higher rate of PTSD from dealing with stressful situations.  Recently, three firefighters in Albert Lea had been diagnosed with cancer and one firefighter in Austin died from cancer.  

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