Speak Out!

May 28, 2006

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- After a study last year by Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health uncovered 17 cancer cases among Anne Arundel County firefighters who trained in the 1970s, local officials have petitioned for a national study of cancer among firefighters.

Last week, prodded by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said it would fund a training program to analyze the cancer risk to firefighters exposed to toxins.

County officials hope this could be a precursor to the more expansive study. They say a federally funded study would provide the most reliable results, not only for Anne Arundel County but also for dozens of communities nationwide that are investigating potential cancer clusters in their local fire departments.

Is funding a national cancer study the best way to protect the health of firefighters?

Firefighters' group eager for study

A cancer cluster among Anne Arundel County firefighters could have been caused by exposure to carcinogens during training, but previous studies of the matter have proved inconclusive. A more comprehensive examination is necessary to determine the cancer cluster's cause and ensure that affected firefighters and their families receive the care and benefits they deserve.

The International Association of Fire Fighters' Hazardous Substance Training Program, funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, does excellent work training firefighters to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials, but will not shed any light on the situation facing Maryland firefighters.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski has led the fight to secure funding for a comprehensive study to determine the exact cause of the cancer cluster, and we look forward to continue working with her to this end.

Robert M. Stevens Jr. Millersville

The writer is president of the Anne Arundel County Professional Fire Fighters

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