LINDALE, TX (KLTV) - President Donald Trump signed the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act in July which required the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and maintain a registry.
For the first time, the CDC will maintain a voluntary registry to track the connection between a career of fighting fires and cancer. The collected data will then be used with existing state data to better assess and prevent cancer among firefighters. This is something firefighters say can be life-changing.
"I mean we're seeing firemen that get cancer that never drank, smoke, chew tobacco. They're at risk and getting cancer," says Director of Safety Development with Lindale Fire Department Troy Pritchard.
Pritchard has been fighting fires for 18 years. When he was a rookie he says he knew the risks that came with the job but he didn't know cancer could be one of them.
"We didn't even know much then and it wasn't that big of a deal, guys weren't talking about it," he says.
But 18 years later, things have changed. The link between cancer and firefighters is at the forefront of the conversation.
Pritchard says firefighters are over 100 percent more likely to get skin and testicular cancer and 21 percent more likely to get colon cancer. He says the statistics prove the firefighter cancer registry is a necessity.
"Well the registry is a step in the right direction, but we need to be doing more and we need everybody on every level to buy into this," he says.
Medical calls, structure fires, and rescues keep Lindale firefighters busy throughout the day but they're taking every preventive measure to stay safe from the dangers they can't see.
"We have implemented programs as far as on-scene decontamination, washing your gear before you get in the engine and then anything else we've touched," he says.
Pritchard says firefighters go through the decontamination process in order to get rid of carcinogens that stick to them. The carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer that firefighters come across while on the job.