After a strong push by Massachusetts firefighters unions, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would treat cancer like a workplace injury for firefighters. The move is based on several studies that show that firefighters are far more likely to be diagnosed with and die from cancer than the general population.
“We still haven’t seen the apex of the cancer problem,” said Jason Burns, a Fall River firefighter and president of the Fall River firefighters’ union. “It’s still going to hit us, but this is going to soften that blow.”
Firefighters are 9 percent more likely than the general public to be diagnosed with cancer, and 14 percent more likely to die from the disease, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Sixty-one percent of line-of-duty deaths in firefighters from 2002 to 2016 were cancer related, according to the International Association of Firefighters.
A firefighter’s cancer risk is caused by chemicals and material they come in contact with while fighting fires, like benzene, a chemical used in some fire retardants and plastics that has been linked to leukemia; and asbestos, a mineral used in building materials and insulation that can cause mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs or other internal organs.
Earlier this year, President Trump signed the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act into law, which directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect and analyze data on cancer diagnoses and death among firefighters in an effort to reduce cancer risk.
Source: The Herald News