Mikulski calls for firefighter cancer study



U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski repeated a call yesterday for the Bush administration to conduct a study of cancer rates among firefighters, citing a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report that last year documented 17 Anne Arundel County firefighters with cancer.

The Maryland Democrat told John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in a letter sent yesterday that a formal epidemiological study, not necessarily limited to Maryland, could potentially save lives.

The $25,000 Hopkins study of the Anne Arundel fire service, released last year, showed that firefighters were more susceptible to cancer than the general population, but it stopped short of pointing to specific causes.

County officials have petitioned Mikulski and federal health officials this year to fund a national study that could better determine risks to firefighters. Experts have said a more comprehensive study could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mikulski first wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt in late January, but a response letter did not address her request for a study or funding assistance.

Anne Arundel County health officials said the Johns Hopkins study should be broadened. "The Anne Arundel County Department of Health supports any look at advancing the study of how to best protect the health of firefighters," said Frances B. Phillips, the county's health officer. "This is a national issue and calls for a federal response."

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